Most of us have experienced the awful feeling known colloquially as "food
poisoning." Typically marked by vomiting and diarrhea, it is often
a very intense but relatively brief period of illness. However, some foodborne
illnesses can be life-threatening. In this post our Panama City food safety
lawyer focuses on listeria, one particularly dangerous bacteria.
Listeria in the News: Walmart Settles Case Involving Fatal Listeria Outbreak
Last month, Time Magazine announced that Wal-Mart had settled civil claims
filed by the families of some of the 33 people who died in a 2011 listeria
outbreak. The settlements also resolved claims against companies involved
fruit inspection and delivery. Investigators eventually tied the outbreak
to a Colorado cantaloupe and two brothers pled guilty earlier this year
to related criminal misdemeanor charges.
A New Recall of Nearly 15,000 Pounds of Hummus and Dips is Announced
Just one week later, another listeria story broke. As noted in a press
release posted on the Food & Drug Administration website, Lansal Inc.
voluntarily recalled 14,860 pounds of hummus and other dips out of concerns
about possible listeria contamination. The recall followed a routine test
at a Texas facility. No illness was reported at the time of the voluntary
recall, which included products sold in Florida.
The Basics of Listeria & Listeriosis
Listeriosis, the illness caused by consuming food contaminated with listeria
monocytogenes ("listeria"), is a major public health threat
according to the Centers for Disease Control. Almost all instances of
listeriosis go beyond the patient's gastrointestinal tract, with symptoms
including headache, muscle pain, and fever. In time, infection can cause
meningitis (inflammation of membranes surrounding the brain and spinal
cord) and/or septicemia (potentially fatal blood infection).
Close to 90% of listeria-related illnesses occur in high-risk groups such
as pregnant women, newborns, older people, and individuals with weakened
immune systems. Pregnant women, who account for approximately one in seven
cases of listeriosis, are at risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, or pre-term
labor. Over half of listeria-related illnesses hit individuals over age 65.
Avoiding Listeria & Other Foodborne Bacteria
General advice from the CDC for avoiding listeriosis mirrors the typical
advice for avoiding foodborne illness. This includes careful food handling,
proper cooking, appropriate food storage (including maintaining appropriate
temperature), and thorough washing of foods and food preparation areas.
Additionally, the CDC suggests everyone avoid raw/unpasteurized milk.
The CDC provides additional guidance for high-risk individuals, including
avoiding a number of high-risk foods such as lunch meats (aka "cold
cuts"), uncooked/raw fish, and soft cheese.
A Shared Responsibility
Food safety is a shared responsibility. We should all take steps to avoid
foodborne illness. Americans should also be able to rely on the safety
of food we buy and consume. Sometimes we simply can't take additional
safety steps -- no one "washes" a container of hummus and, while
we can order wisely, we rely even more on a safe food supply chain when
Companies and individuals throughout the supply chain (manufacturers, shippers,
farms, etc.) must take appropriate steps to keep the food supply safe
and prevent foodborne illness. If you or a loved one has fallen ill due
to contaminated food in Northwest Florida, call our Panama City food poisoning
lawyer. If the contamination was the result of negligence (or malfeasance)
in the food supply line, we can help you recover money damages.