The past year has seen a larger than usual number of multistate food poisoning outbreaks in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report 22 multistate foodborne illness outbreaks thus far in 2018, compared to eight such outbreaks in 2017, 14 in 2016, 11 in 2015, and 13 in 2014.
The CDC estimate that one in six Americans (48 million individuals) get sick each year from eating contaminated food. Contamination can occur at any point along the food production chain -- production, processing, distribution, and preparation.
Some of the more prominent outbreaks in 2018 are:
Is food poisoning on the rise, and, if so, why? Is our food supply more unsafe than in past years? There are a few possible reasons.
The rise in reported outbreaks could be the result of better, more thorough reporting, investigating, and testing systems now in place. Federal and state public health surveillance has improved in recent years, allowing for relatively rapid identification of illness patterns and links to food products (and perhaps more reported outbreaks).
Better testing and reporting is certainly a positive development. But, despite the fact that foodborne illnesses are largely preventable, consumers remain constantly at risk of becoming ill from contaminated food.
One factor contributing to continued foodborne illnesses is the growing demand for convenient access to pre-chopped and washed produce. The increased convenience carries greater risks of exposure to toxins introduced by more human handling and potentially contaminated tools used to cut and chop food. Also, produce is sold without a "kill step" -- such as cooking or canning -- which also increases the risk of contamination.
The food distribution system is increasingly wider geographically, with greater potential for the introduction of poor food handling and storage practices that can contaminate food.
The fact remains that food producers, distributors, and providers have a legal duty to supply food that is fit and safe to consume. Too often they fail to meet their obligations. This is where litigation serves an important role.
The food poisoning attorneys at Todd & Weld have represented numerous individuals suffering from the effects of food poisoning, including obtaining settlements ranging from $500,000 to a $1.13 million settlement on behalf of a woman who, after eating salmon at a restaurant, contracted E. coli and as a result suffered renal failure after developing hemolytic uremic syndrome.
Jeff has been selected to the Best Lawyers in America directory for personal injury and product liability litigation (plaintiffs) for five consecutive years (2015-19), and has been designated as one of the Top Rated Lawyers in Medical Malpractice by The Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal. He has been chosen as a New England Super Lawyer each year since 2009.