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Is Your Food Safe?---How to Protect Yourself From Foodborne Illness

Co-authored by Gregory Zimmer of The Collins Law Firm, P.C.

The Food and Drug Administration is hard at work. The first half of this month has already had 3 recalls of nuts tainted with Salmonella and 2 recalls of pet food due to Listeria contamination.1 These recalls follow the highly publicized multistate Listeria outbreak from affected Blue Bell ice cream products which resulted in 10 hospitalizations and 3 deaths.2 While the FDA catches many issues before they are widespread, you may still be at risk. How do you know if you are one of the unlucky few who are affected, and what do you do next?

Foodborne illness typically present symptoms hours or days after contaminated food is consumed, but people can sometimes develop illnesses up to 2 months later.3 You can check here4 for recent and ongoing food recalls.

Routine testing is performed by state health officials. Nevertheless, certain groups should be extra vigilant. People at high risk for foodborne infections-such as listeriosis (infection by Listeria monocytogenes) or Salmonella poisoning-include pregnant women and their newborns, adults 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems.5 Salmonella poisoning is the second most common intestinal infection in the United States. While the majority of cases go unreported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 1 million people in the U.S. contract Salmonella each year, and that an average of 20,000 hospitalizations and almost 400 deaths occur from Salmonella poisoning.6 Consumers who develop symptoms of listeriosis after eating recalled products should seek medical care immediately and tell their health care provider about eating a product that was recalled because of possible Listeria contamination.

If you contract a foodborne illness, particularly from a product involved in a recall, you may be entitled to legal recourse. Although no amount of money erases the harm caused by a foodborne illness, compensation can help with medical bills and send a message to companies that subpar manufacturing conditions when processing, packaging, and distributing food are unacceptable.

1 U.S. Food and Drug Administration - "Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts" (July 13, 2015)

2 U.S. Food and Drug Administration - "FDA Investigates Listeria monocytogenes in Ice Cream Products from Blue Bell Creameries" (June 20, 2015)

3 Center for Disease Control and Prevention - "Advice to Consumers, Institutions, and Retailers: Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Blue Bell Creameries Products" (June 10, 2015)

4 U.S. Food and Drug Administration - "Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts" (July 13, 2015)

5 Center for Disease Control and Prevention - "Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Blue Bell Creameries Products (Final Update)" (June 10, 2015)

6 Foodborne Illness - "Salmonella" (July 13, 2015)

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