The same man who took on E. coli in the 1990s is now taking on salmonella. According to an in-depth story by The Washington Post, Bill Marler’s law firm filed a petition with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking it to ban 31 salmonella strains on poultry and meat.
Few people realize that meat and poultry can be legally sold in the United States even though it could be contaminated with salmonella. That begs the question, “If it is not illegal to sell meat and poultry containing salmonella, who is responsible if the product makes someone sick or causes a death?” Our California personal injury lawyers and product liability attorneys strive to answer that question for our clients who became ill because of contaminated meat and food.
In this article, we cover several topics of interest related to salmonella poisoning and illnesses, including:
- What is Salmonella?
- How Does Salmonella Bacteria Make Someone Sick?
- Who is Liable for Damages Caused by Salmonella?
- What Should I Do If I Become Ill Because of Contaminated Meat or Poultry?
- Why Should I File a Lawsuit for Food Poisoning?
- How Can You Avoid Becoming Ill Because of Salmonella?
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella is a bacteria. Many different strains of the bacteria occur naturally. Salmonella bacteria are found in the intestinal tract and feces of humans and many animals, including cows, chickens, and pigs. Other raw food of animal origin can also carry salmonella, including eggs, milk, seafood, and dairy products.
Unfortunately, salmonella bacteria can cause infections and serious illnesses. In some cases, a salmonella infection can result in death.
How Does Salmonella Bacteria Make Someone Sick?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), salmonella bacteria cause about 1.35 million infections each year in the United States. Salmonellosis (infections from salmonella bacteria) result in approximately 420 deaths and 26,500 hospitalizations each year. In most of those cases, food was the source of the salmonellosis.
Individuals can develop salmonellosis after consuming poultry or meat contaminated with animal feces. They can also become ill because of cross-contamination (transferring salmonella from contaminated meat or poultry by touching other foods). Food handlers who are infected by not showing symptoms may transfer the bacteria to foods because of poor hygiene. Undercooked meat, eggs, and poultry are also sources of salmonella. Foods must be cooked to a specific temperature to kill the bacteria.
What are the symptoms of salmonella infection?
The symptoms of salmonellosis vary, but often mimic the symptoms of the stomach flu. Common symptoms of salmonella infections include, but are not limited to:
- Stomach cramps
- Blood in the stool
Symptoms can last for up to a week once the symptoms begin. Some individuals experience symptoms of salmonella infection as soon as six hours after ingesting the bacteria. However, some victims may not show signs of infection for up to six days after being exposed to salmonella.
While it is wise to consult a doctor whenever you experience symptoms of an illness, the CDC recommends contacting a doctor if you have a fever higher than 102°F with diarrhea, your diarrhea lasts for more than three days, you have blood in your stool, you cannot keep liquids down, you experience prolonged vomiting, or you have signs of dehydration.
How is salmonella infection diagnosed and treated?
Laboratory tests are used to detect salmonella bacteria in a person’s fluids, stool, or body tissue. Once the doctor has diagnosed salmonellosis, the doctor develops a treatment plan based on the person’s health and the severity of the infection. For a healthy individual, a doctor may advise over-the-counter medications to treat the symptoms of salmonella infections.
However, some salmonella infections can result in life-threatening conditions. It is important to see a doctor immediately if symptoms persist or become worse. Severe cases of salmonellosis may require hospitalization, especially when the person becomes dehydrated. In rare cases, the infection can spread to a person’s bloodstream and other parts of the body, which can be life-threatening and cause permanent impairments and disabilities.
Who is Liable for Damages Caused by Salmonella?
Determining who may be liable for damages caused by salmonella infections usually begin by determining if there was an outbreak. When two or more people become ill because of contaminated food or beverages, the event is labeled a foodborne disease outbreak. Public health officials and government agencies are responsible for investigating foodborne disease outbreaks, including salmonella outbreaks.
For instance, a recent salmonella outbreak was identified in New Jersey. The FDA tracked 96 illnesses as of December 30, 2019, in 11 states caused by salmonella. The outbreak was traced to cut fruit and fruit products from a New Jersey-based company. The products were not sold to the public, but were used by schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and hotels. There are numerous outbreaks of foodborne illnesses each year in the United States. Outbreaks of foodborne illnesses can result in life-threatening illnesses and debilitating complications.
Who is responsible?
Tracking an outbreak of foodborne illness can involve many steps. There could be one or more parties responsible for the outbreak. We typically examine each party in the chain of distribution to determine who might be responsible for the contaminated food.
Parties that might be responsible for damages related to contaminated food include, but are not limited to:
- Food processing company
- Grocery stores
Proving liability may require different strategies depending on the party or parties liable for the food contamination. If your purchased meat at a deli that was contaminated with salmonella, you may have a claim against the deli under California’s product liability laws. If you become ill because the food at a restaurant was contaminated with salmonella, your claim may fall under common law negligence. Each legal cause of action may involve slightly different legal elements.
It is important to contact a California personal injury lawyer to discuss your case as soon as possible. The lawyers of The Thompson Law Office have extensive experience handling personal injury cases involving product liability claims, general negligence claims, and breach of warranty claims.
How do you prove the source of salmonella food poisoning?
Proving the source of the salmonella bacteria is crucial because it establishes who might be responsible for your damages. Health officials and government agencies are very helpful in tracking down outbreaks. However, when there is not an outbreak, it is up to you to prove that your illness was caused by salmonellosis.
An experienced salmonella attorney begins tracking down information based on your memory of when you become ill. Based on when your symptoms began, an attorney can start an investigation with a list of places that you ate or where you purchased food that might have been contaminated with salmonella.
What Should I Do If I Become Ill Because of Contaminated Meat or Poultry?
If you believe that your illness or condition is caused by salmonellosis or another type of foodborne illness, there are certain steps you need to take to protect your right to pursue legal action against the parties responsible for your illness. Whenever possible:
- Seek medical attention. You need a record to document that you suffered from salmonellosis or other foodborne illness.
- Preserve evidence. If you have any of the food that you believe is contaminated, place the item in a sealed container. Mark the container with a warning not to eat or touch and place it in your freezer. Keeping the evidence helps establish a link between your illness and the bacteria or pathogen in the food that caused your illness.
- Report your illness to the California health department. Your doctor may also report the illness to the health department. The health department can investigate the matter to determine if any other illnesses are associated with your illness. It can also test the food to determine the strain of salmonella present.
- Create a written record to help determine the source of contamination. If you do not have the food item that caused your illness, write down everything you remember about what you ate before you became ill. Try to remember when you ate it, where you ate it, and how it was prepared.
- Keep careful track of your symptoms and damages. During your illness, make careful notes about your symptoms, including a description of symptoms, how long the symptoms lasted, and how your illness impacted your daily life. Also, keep track of all financial losses associated with your illness, including medical expenses and loss of income.
- Contact a California personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. A food poisoning attorney can review your case and advise you of your legal rights and options for filing a lawsuit for food poisoning. It is best to contact an attorney quickly for several reasons.
Most salmonella claims are treated as product liability claims, but there may be some cases that fall under negligence or breach of warranty. Each type of case has a strict deadline for filing claims and lawsuits. Avoid losing your right to file a lawsuit for salmonellosis by contacting an attorney now. Also, the longer you wait to contact an attorney, the more chance that evidence could be destroyed or lost. An attorney can help you preserve key evidence that proves fault and liability in a salmonella poisoning case.
Why Should I File a Lawsuit for Food Poisoning?
While many cases of salmonellosis may go away with rest, time, and little to no medical intervention, there are some cases in which salmonellosis can cause severe health conditions. Some victims may experience substantial financial losses because of the salmonella infection.
Filing a lawsuit allows you to seek compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial damages. It also holds parties responsible for their negligence, carelessness, and wrongdoing. Furthermore, a salmonella lawsuit helps to add additional pressure on various industries to increase efforts to prevent salmonella contamination.
The more lawsuits that are filed, the more pressure is placed upon the USDA and other government agencies to enact regulations and laws that force parties to initiate safeguards that could prevent salmonella outbreaks.
How Can You Avoid Becoming Ill Because of Salmonella?
One of the best ways to prevent salmonella infections is to handle food properly. Foods must be cooked to safe minimum internal temperatures. Hand-washing and food safety measures are very important to prevent cross-contamination between foods.
Raw meat should be kept separate from other foods, and all surfaces, utensils, and dishes need to be washed in hot soapy water after coming into contact with raw meats and poultry. Cooked foods should be kept at a safe temperature while serving. Leftovers need to be frozen or refrigerated within two hours.
You can also reduce your risk of salmonella infections if you avoid eating undercooked poultry, beef, eggs, and unpasteurized milk.
Contact The Thompson Law Office for a Free Case Review
Unfortunately, you can be vigilant in how you prepare and handle food, but that does not mean that the food you are served in restaurants or purchase in a store has been treated with the same safeguards to avoid foodborne illnesses. If you or a family member becomes ill after consuming food, you may be entitled to compensation for your illness, damages, and losses.
However, the first step is to prove that salmonella or other foodborne bacteria caused your illness. The lawyers of The Thompson Law Office can help.
Contact our office online or by calling 1-650-513-6111 to schedule a free consultation with one of our California personal injury attorneys to discuss your case.
We review your case for free, analyze your legal options, and explain the steps you need to take to hold the party or parties responsible for your illness accountable for their actions.