Who’s Responsible for Food Poisoning?
A night out with family or friends shouldn’t end with a trip to the emergency room. In particular, people don’t expect the food or drinks they purchase to end up sickening them. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for poorly-cooked or poorly-handled food to cause serious illness and hospitalization. According to the CDC, the thirty-one most common foodborne pathogens cause over nine million illnesses every year. Food poisoning can result in nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal distress, esophageal damage, dehydration, and more.
Different instances of food poisoning can come through completely different mechanisms. Some common vectors of foodborne illness include cross-contamination and improper temperatures. Some involve similar pathogens but all can cause serious illness.
The fastest way for someone to get sick from restaurant food is when a worker moves ready-to-eat food through the same space and surfaces used to prepare raw meat or other products. Many foods, like raw chicken, can carry bacteria that would normally be killed when the food is cooked, but if chicken is prepared on a surface which is then used to prepare salad or cooked food, the bacteria can be transferred and can infect a patient.
After a food poisoning incident, a food poisoning attorney will request that the establishment show training records concerning the avoidance of cross-contamination. It may also be possible to acquire past health inspection reports from the county Department of Health to determine whether the restaurant has a history of cross-contamination violations.
Once food is cooked, it should usually be kept hot until it is served. When food is moved through temperature cycles, it has more opportunities to permit microbial growth. Most pathogenic, disease-causing bacteria and other microbes grow best at a temperature that is close to human body temperature. Accordingly, food should be either kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This range is called the Danger Zone, as food that stays out in this temperature region can be subject to rapid bacterial growth, with some populations of pathogenic bacteria doubling in as little as twenty minutes.
Severe food poisoning can result when bacteria reproduce rapidly before food is eaten.
Who is responsible?
Proving responsibility in a food poisoning case is a job for expert food poisoning attorneys. A successful claim requires that the restaurant or other food establishment made a foreseeable, avoidable error, that the patron was made seriously ill, and that the error itself was the cause of the illness. It is not enough to show that illness followed a restaurant visit, as the restaurant will likely argue that it was unrelated or coincidental. Sometimes, the symptoms can clearly show that food poisoning occurred, but even then the restaurant may say that it could have been caused by eating something else.
One of the easiest ways to prove food poisoning is when multiple people share the same meal at the same restaurant and end up with the same symptoms. Not all the symptoms may have the same severity, however, and so they may not all report it. If you’ve become seriously ill as the result of food poisoning, speak to any other individuals who may have been present with you and contact a food poisoning attorney immediately. Cohen & Cohen, P.C.