“The bacterium Escherichia coli (E. Coli) takes about twenty minutes to divide. So after one hour, one E. Coli cell has turned into eight. After only six and a half hours, there will be over a million bacteria!” ― Jennifer Gardy
E. coli. We’ve heard about that nasty bacteria in most incidents or outbreaks that are related to food poisoning. We simply know it’s something that contaminates our food and give us some devastating conditions.
But, little do we know about its details and where it comes from. So, here are some interesting facts about E. coli.
Discovered in 1885
Escherichia coli or E. coli was first discovered by German bacteriologist Theodor Escherich in 1885. Because it was found in the human colon, it was called Bacterium coli and was found responsible for infant diarrhea and gastroenteritis. Its name was later changed to honor its discoverer.
Responsible for Foodborne Illness
One of the most common causes of foodborne illness in the U.S. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 265,000 people each year are affected.
Infection thru Contamination
Infection starts when you swallow microscopic feces that can get them from contaminated food. In some outbreaks, raw produce, raw milk, soft cheese, and unpasteurized apple cider are among the common culprits. Handling a dirty diaper or eating food prepared by someone who has a bad hygiene habit may contaminate you as well.
Anyone’s At Risk
Yeah, anyone. No one’s an exception and we can become infected by this deadly bacteria anytime. The most vulnerable ones are young children and the elderly who have been reported to suffer from severe symptoms such as diarrhea, pneumonia and on rare occasions, can cause bowel necrosis (tissue death).
Most common symptoms would be: severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea that turns bloody within 24 hours, and sometimes fever. These symptoms might show within 3 to 4 days. An uncomplicated illness can range from one to twelve days. Others can develop a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which can lead to acute kidney failure.
Most medical labs and doctors know how to diagnose this kind of bacteria especially if the patient is suffering from bloody diarrhea. A stool specimen would be a good way to determine the existence of the particular bacteria.
Antibiotics are not the solution and according to some medical research, it can increase the risk of HUS. There is no specific therapy to stop symptoms. It’s recommended to stay attention to nutrition ad hydration. Most individuals who don’t develop HUS recover in two weeks.
Prevention is Better Than Cure
To prevent you and your family from getting infected, you need to practice proper personal hygiene. Wash your hands thoroughly before or after doing activities that might get you traces of bacteria such as going to the bathroom or preparing food. Sanitize all domestic or local fruits and vegetables. Anything can be a carrier.
What’s the most humiliating thing? When you take someone to dinner or you cook somebody dinner and they get food poisoning. I mean, how bad do you feel? – Wendi McLendon-Covey
Food poisoning is a dreadful experience that could affect not only your life but also those around you. As soon as you feel an extreme abdominal pain you would know right away that something’s wrong. A very terrible feeling indeed especially for the fact that you were the one who invited others to eat at a specific restaurant. (Yikes!)
If the investigation reveals that you have acquired that condition thru a specific food item, you could file a lawsuit against a grower, distributor and processor.
In this post, we’ll focus more on restaurants and what are the things that you should know if ever you sue one in the future.
Consult a Medical Professional
To determine what specific pathogen caused the food poisoning, a medical professional needs to be consulted. The following culprits might be: Campylobacter, E. coli, Hepatitis A, Listeria, Norovirus, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio and Hepatitis A. This is a necessary step in order to gather strong evidence to support your claims.
Needs PFGE Testing
Pulsed-field gel electrophoreses or PFGE testing can help investigators to find a close connection between the food and the affected people. This test determines if the bacteria that affected a group of people has the same DNA fingerprint which more likely suggests that it came from one source. For instance, if 10 people who got sick have the same match are also the ones who ate at the same restaurant.
Unknown Food is Still Equal to A Lawsuit
Even for the fact that the specific food responsible was not determined, a lawsuit can still be filed against the restaurant. It purely depends of the PFGE testing and epidemiological evidence which can give a strong connection to the said restaurant and its victims.
A Sick Employee Can Be The Cause
In some reported cases, a sick employee may transmit the illness straight on the food or any surfaces that can come in contact with the ingredients. Most menu items would undoubtedly be contaminated as a result of the handler’s poor practice of personal hygiene.
Hang On to the Leftovers
Leftovers can be a very valuable piece of evidence for it can be tested for the specific pathogens mentioned above. If you get sick after eating from a specific restaurant, you might want to keep the leftovers.
So, these are the possible things that you need to keep in mind if ever you unfortunately fall prey to food poisoning. Don’t let yourself and other people suffer just because of the negligence of a certain establishment.
The Centers for Disease Control says that there are 76 million cases of food poisoning in the United States every year, 350,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths. Is that a lot or a little? Well, it depends on how you look at it. – Marion Nestle
Every lawsuit results from somebody doing something wrong. If everybody did right, we wouldn’t need laws.–Alan Dershowitz
Food poisoning has reached the headlines every now and then which resulted to a massive number of victims from this devastating event. A number of restaurants were shut down as lawsuits were fired at them.
Customers have the right to sue the particular restaurant, grocery and other food distributors according to the legal theories and the circumstances of their condition.
Now, let’s try to dig deeper about the possible legal theories that could support your claim if ever you encounter a food poisoning event.
A business has a duty to exercise reasonable care. It means that the establishment has a duty to maintain a sanitary environment and be extra careful in making or distributing food products. A negligence claim can be filed once you have proved that the distributor such as a restaurant has breached its duty by making contaminated food that made you sick. For example, a dirty kitchen and unsanitary storage method can be strong evidences.
To further support your claim, you need to verify that it was the particular establishment’s food that you have eaten and nothing else. Just the account of getting sick can put this claim into motion.
Breach of Warranty
Most states have implied warranties or minimum standards on products and the contaminated food which caused the food poisoning can create a violation of those warranties. The affected consumer can claim that the food did not conform to his or her expectation which doesn’t meet the minimum specifications.This could ultimately sue the establishment for breaching the implied warranty by producing food that is not fit for human consumption and unreasonably dangerous.
Strict Products Liability
Many states have forms of strict product liability laws. These can relieve you of any burden of requirement of showing lack of reasonable care. You just need to prove and show some evidence that the contaminated food from the establishment was the root cause of your sickness. You can undergo some tests (PGFE) as strong evidence against the business which is the easiest way for your claim to be processed.
Possible Damages Involved
The possible damages that can be incurred from an incident of food poisoning are the following:
- Medical bills
In some rare occasions, a victim could experience some fatal complications which can result to death. The remaining family members of the victim may file a wrongful death claim against the establishment.
If you are involved in a mass outbreak of food poisoning, you may be able to group together with the other victims and file a class action lawsuit. You consult with a lawyer to find out if there are any existing class action and if it’s advisable that you would join.