Despite a movement towards farmer’s markets and co-ops, most Americans still get the bulk of their food from grocery stores and large retailers. In 2016, we should be able to trust that these products are safe. Unfortunately, foodborne illness remains a major problem in this country as a recent listeria outbreak demonstrates. While most people might suffer a bad stomach ache after exposure to foodborne bacteria, some end up in the hospital and some even die. Our San Francisco food safety lawyer is here to help when unsafe foods cause serious consequences.
Major Outbreak of Listeria Leads to Massive Recall
CBS SF recently reported on an outbreak of listeria that has prompted a massive recall of frozen foods. According to the report, the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) has released a list of 358 frozen fruit and vegetable products, including 42 different brand names, that may be contaminated with the potentially deadly bacteria. The list includes products sold in all 50 states by retailers including Safeway, Costco, and Trader Joe’s. At least 8 people have been hospitalized after consuming contaminated foods, two of whom later died of other causes.
The foods at issue were packaged in Washington state by CRF Frozen Foods. The recall includes both organic and non-organic products with sell-by dates between April 26, 2016 and April 26, 2018. CBS reports that the company started a voluntary recall in April and shut-down the plant before issuing an expanded recall on May 4. A full list of recalled products is available from the company and customers are asked to either throw out the items of return them to the site of purchase for a refund.
A Look at Listeria and Foodborne Illnesses Generally
As the CDC explains, eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes 1 can lead to a serious infection known as listeriosis. Not everyone will become ill after eating a contaminated food, but common symptoms include a fever, muscle aches, headache, stiffness, and various gastrointestinal problems. Listeriosis is especially dangerous for pregnant women and can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, and life-threatening infection for the baby. Older adults and people who are immunocompromised are also at particular risk and may develop septicemia (a life-threatening complication of infection) or meningitis (swelling of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord).
The CDC estimates that each year in the United States listeriosis causes approximately 1600 illness and 260 deaths. More generally, the CDC reports that 1 in 6 Americans will get sick as a result of contaminated foods of beverages ever year resulting in approximately 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually. The CDC calls foodborne illness “a common, costly—yet preventable—public health problem.” There are many different bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause foodborne illness so there are many different symptoms of infection, but most cases begin with gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and nausea.
Responsibility, Accountability, Compensation
When a company or individual’s negligence leads to a serious case of foodborne illness, the responsible party should be held accountable. Responsible parties can include food packagers, food distributors, restaurants, and various others involved in the food supply chain. A civil lawsuit can allow the victim and/or the victim’s family to recover much needed compensation and also serves as a message reminding the food industry that safety must always be their paramount concern. Call our food safety lawyer in Oakland, San Francisco, or Santa Rosa to learn more.
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(Image by Steven Depolo)