Though minimized by the efforts of governmental agencies and local health bureaus, food poisoning cases do still occur due contamination of food products. E. coli, is one such contaminant that causes widespread illness if presented to the marketplace. Though many strains of E. coli are naturally occurring (some even occurring in the digestive tract), several strains of the bacteria are known to cause severe illness in the general population.
E. coli-related illness can occur though several means of transmission, typically through contaminated raw vegetables or meats. Foods may be contaminated as a result of improper handling, cross-contamination on shared equipment, or as a result of contact with contaminated water. Several high-profile E. coli outbreaks have occurred in the US the recent past, most notably the 1993 Jack in the Box chain outbreak, which killed four children and sickened over 600 who consumed undercooked and contaminated meat served in the chain restaurant. In 2006, a widespread North American outbreak of E. coli – caused by contaminated spinach and lettuce – sickened hundreds and also resulted in three deaths. These large outbreaks are rare, and typically make headlines and result in special coverage of resulting product recalls.
For a large portion of the population, E. coli is not life threatening. Symptoms range from mild to severe diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting. In more severe cases, diarrhea may contain blood. These symptoms generally pass in a week, and can be treated with home-based care, fluids to fight dehydration, and rest after diagnosis. In sensitive groups, such as the very young, the aged, or those with compromised immune systems, the symptoms can be more severe. In particular, sensitive populations can develop a life-threatening condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), causing kidney failure and requiring dialysis.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the USDA’s Food Safetly and Inspection Service (FSIS) make every effort to trace the origin of food poisoning outbreaks and investigate the cause in an effort to locate affected products so they may be recalled. In the event of an outbreak whose source is detected, victims of infection (or, in the case of a fatal infection, the victim’s estate) can pursue legal action against the responsible party to cover medical expenses, financial losses, and pain & suffering. In the case of more widespread contamination, a class-action lawsuit may be in order.
Because of the relative rarity of E. coli contamination, its potential severe complications, and the ability to definitively diagnose infection through laboratory testing, it is important to be seen by a doctor should you suspect you have been infected. First and foremost, your doctor can provide you the medical care and advice needed to recover from the illness with minimal complication and discomfort. In addition, the doctor will be able to document your condition and provide that documentation should you later pursue an individual or class-action settlement.
Call food poisoning lawyer, Ty Wilson, for a free evaluation at 1-888-689-5224.