Reports of food poisoning seem to make the news each week. Just last month Clover Food Labs in Massachusetts, which operates restaurants and mobile food trucks, closed all operations because of a possible Salmonella outbreak as a result of its vegetarian fare. In addition, the Center for Disease Control reported outbreaks of Cyclospora, a rare parasite that causes a lengthy gastrointestinal illness, in 15 states traced to pre-packaged salad mix.
Food poisoning affects an estimated 1 in 4 Americans each year. While most quickly recover, many others suffer serious illness, requiring medical treatment, and some even die from the effects.Symptoms often include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fevers, chills, bleeding, weakness, headaches, nausea and vomiting, and start within two to six hours of consuming contaminated food.
Food poisoning may occur from exposure to contaminated food in restaurants, school cafeterias, or even at picnics or pot-lucks. It may also occur when you consume spoiled or contaminated food from the grocery store. If you experience symptoms of food poisoning, you should seek medical assistance and report the incident to your local health department.
The cause of food poisoning can often be traced to the individuals and companies responsible for the growing, packaging, distribution, preparation or serving of food.
You may be able to file a personal injury claim for negligence or breach of warranty to recover damages. However, before it gets to that, you can use the following four steps to reduce your chances of food poisoning:
- CLEAN – Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot running water. Wash surfaces and utensils after each use, and wash fruits and vegetables, even “pre-washed” bagged produce.
- SEPARATE – Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce and for meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. Keep meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from all other foods at the grocery store and in the refrigerator.
- COOK – Cooked food is safe only after it’s been heated to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer. Keep food hot after cooking, and microwave food thoroughly.
- CHILL – Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours. Don’t thaw or marinate foods on the counter. Rather, thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave. Know when to throw food out. Check sell-by dates.
For more information on food poisoning, the four steps and more suggestions to keep food safe, including a chart of safe food storage time for refrigerator and freezer, visit foodsafety.gov.