Cases of food poisoning are not a rare occurrence as 48 million cases of food poisoning are reported each year.

17% of Americans are affected each year by food poisoning.

Food poisoning is any food-related illness and may include intestinal symptoms such as nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.  It is caused when microbes or toxins from food enter in the gastrointestinal tract after eating the contaminated food.  Food poisoning symptoms vary greatly in terms of when the symptoms appear after eating the contaminated food or drink.  Recovery time also varies greatly.  Some people recover in a day or two.  Others have to be hospitalized.  An estimated 3,000 people die from food poisoning each year in the United States.  Food poisoning usually occurs when the food is improperly stored or prepared, insufficiently cooked, or is otherwise contaminated.

In North Carolina, the N.C. Division of Public Health regulates and investigates food-borne illness cases and outbreaks.  According to state law, all food-borne illnesses may be reported to the Division.  Also, restaurants are required to report any outbreaks of food-borne illnesses from their customers or when a restaurant employee or food handler has a food-borne illness or condition.
North Carolina law also regulates raw and unpasteurized dairy products to prevent public health risks.

Common types of food –related illnesses
E. coli is a disease that stems from food or water contaminated with microscopic amounts of cow feces. Symptoms include painful abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea. In a small percentage of exposures, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) can occur several weeks after the first onset, which can cause profuse bleeding, anemia, and kidney failure.

Listeriosis is a potentially fatal foodborne illness caused by bacteria called listeria occasionally found in fresh produce. The disease’s flu-like symptoms can appear anywhere from a few days to several weeks after you have eaten the contaminated food. Listeriosis poses the greatest threat to pregnant women, elderly, and others with weakened immune systems.

Norovirus usually results in mild illness, but is the leading cause of foodborne deaths simply because it is the most common pathogen. Symptoms include: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps, and usually last one or two days. Nursing home residents and those with children in childcare should be particularly cautious because the disease is very contagious.

Salmonella causes fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. In severe cases, it can also cause life-threatening infections, especially among those with compromised immune systems.

Toxoplasma is a parasite estimated to be present in more than 60 million Americans. A healthy immune system usually prevents the parasite from causing illness; however, severe toxoplasma cases can lead to brain or eye damage. Individuals at the highest risk include infants, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems.

A majority of food-borne illnesses are preventable with a few easy steps. 

Wash your hands before preparing meals, especially if you have been sick, have diarrhea, or are taking care of someone with diarrhea.  Also wash any surface that came into contact with raw meat while cooking including countertops, dishes, cutting boards, and utensils.  Wash produce before eating it.

Keep meats away from fresh fruits and vegetables.  Store them in separate containers and prepare them on different surfaces when cooking.  Cook meat, seafood, and eggs thoroughly.  Whole meat needs to reach 145° in order to be safe for eating. Ground meat should be 160° and poultry 165°.

Finally, refrigerate all leftovers soon after cooking.

Legal Action
If you have suffered a serious food poisoning injury, there are food-borne illness lawyers that may help you decide if you should file a legal claim to receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses relating to the illness like mental pain and physical suffering.

When filing a claim, your attorney will first determine where the food contamination occurred.  The responsible parties will be identified.  Your attorneys will need enough proof to show that your injuries came from the contaminated food.  Next, the attorneys will obtain copies of any medical records and bills associated with your food poisoning.  They may contact your physician to determine your present and future medical treatment needs.

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