When families enter the aisles of their local grocery stores, few, if any, anticipate that their purchases could cause them to become ill. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), each year, roughly 1 in 6 Americans or 48 million people become sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die as a result of food-borne illnesses. Moreover, a 2013 study conducted by the CDC regarding the attribution of food-borne illnesses found that around 51 percent of illnesses were attributable to plant commodities, 42 percent to animal commodities, and 6 percent to aquatic commodities, such as fish or shrimp.
Of the food commodities surveyed, researchers found that more illnesses were attributable to leafy vegetables than to any other commodity. This is likely due to the fact that produce-containing foods were the source for nearly half of all Norovirus outbreaks and the second most frequent food source for E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks.
Recent Recalls Underline Dangers of Contaminated Food
Recalls in recent years have reflected CDC findings. One of the most deadly recalls occurred in 2009 when a Salmonella outbreak occurred at a plant belonging to the Peanut Corporation of America. This outbreak resulted in more than 700 cases of serious illnesses and at least nine deaths. In 2014, six brands of peanut butter and almond butter were recalled for possible Salmonella contamination and affected some of the largest grocery stores in the U.S. including Trader Joe’s, Safeway, and Kroger.
Another grocery staple for many that has been recalled several times in past years is bagged and boxed spinach. Blamed for dozens of cases of E. coli poisonings, spinach contamination can sometimes lead to fatal diseases such as Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome which causes kidney failure and affects the nervous system.
Protecting Against Recalls and Food Contamination
The first line of defense against food recalls is to be aware of any news that a produce recently purchased is included in a recall. Typically, grocery stores will place signs by the affected foods, but it is also important to be proactive.
Once food enters your home, there are additional measures that you can take to ensure food safety. First, always wash hands with soap thoroughly before and after handling food. Avoid handling and preparing food for others if you are sick, and, in some cases, it may be appropriate to handle food with tongs or a spoon to avoid direct contact.
Never allow raw foods such as meat to touch other foods and always clean and sanitize utensils and kitchen surfaces that have been in contact with high risk or raw foods. Pets should be discouraged from entering the kitchen during the preparation of food, and trash and other debris should be disposed of regularly.
Furthermore, foods should always be properly stored. This means that high-risk foods such as dairy products, meat, and fish should be stored in a refrigerator or freezer. Product such as fruits and vegetables should be kept cold, ideally also in the refrigerator. Dry foods such as flour, rice, and beans can attract pests and should be stored in tightly sealed containers.
Contact us today if you or a family member has contracted a food-borne disease. The trial attorneys at The Pittman Firm are available to offer legal advice about your case and the steps to take to gather and preserve evidence to ensure appropriate compensation.