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When Toxic Food Claims Lives

Each year, roughly 48 million people are afflicted with a foodborne illness. Many thousands of these require medical treatment that may include hospitalization. Wrongful death attorneys know that most serious cases can lead to death and each year the CDC estimates that 3,000 people die from foodborne diseases.

It's easy to take the food in the store for granted. It appears safe behind layers of cellophane or cardboard, or encased in plastic and aluminum. However, appearing safe and being safe are very different things. There have been numerous cases of food poisoning caused by everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, to nuts and packaged goods.

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Bacterial Causes

Bacteria are the leading cause of food poisoning deaths. Nearly 70% of food poisonings are caused by bacteria. Salmonella, Norovirus, Campylobacter, E.coli, Listeria, and Clostridium Perfingens are the most common. Symptoms vary depending on the bacteria responsible, but commonly include fevers, muscle aches, diarrhea, severe headaches, vomiting, and loss of balance. If an individual's immune system is compromised from age or other illnesses, these symptoms can cause serious complications.

Frequency of Outbreaks

From January 2009 through 2010, public health departments across the country tracked 1,527 foodborne disease outbreaks. These outbreaks caused 29,444 recorded illnesses. Of these, 1,184 individuals required hospitalization. Overall, 23 of those affected by these outbreaks died.

Of these outbreaks, 42% of the outbreaks were caused by Norovirus, 30% were caused by Salmonella, and E. Coli was responsible for 16%. Overall, while more outbreaks were caused by Norovirus, Salmonella was responsible for more hospitalizations. During this time period, it was determined that Salmonella was responsible for 49% of hospitalizations, and Norovirus was responsible for just 9%.

The CDC's research also determined that proportionally, some bacterial pathogens are more likely to cause severe injury requiring hospitalization. For instance, 82% of individuals infected with Listeria required hospitalization. This was followed by Clostridium Botulism and shellfish poisoning at 67% each. While these outbreaks were smaller in scope, their impact on individuals was considerably more severe.

Outbreaks Lead to Wrongful Deaths

Of the 23 deaths attributed to foodborne disease outbreaks in 2009-2010, 22 were caused by bacteria:

  • Listeria claimed 9 lives.
  • Salmonella claimed 5 lives.
  • E.Coli claimed 4 lives.
  • Clostridium Perfingens claimed 3 lives.
  • Shigella claimed one life.

Causes of Foodborne Disease Outbreaks

Delis and restaurants were responsible for 48% of foodborne disease outbreaks. Unsafe handling of food that included undercooking, improper storage, or surface contamination make it easy for bacteria to flourish.

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