According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS), the annual cost of foodborne illnesses to the economy is actually quite staggering; a total cost of more than $15.6 billion every year. Compare that to the total USDA budget for food safety, which is barely over $1 billion. That cost was derived from disease rate data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with numerous peer-reviewed research and analysis of medical costs, lost wages, lost productivity, medical bills, and premature deaths resulting from the 15 pathogens that cause just about 95 percent of food borne illnesses and deaths. In all, about 76 million people become ill after being exposed to contaminated food every year.
Do You Have a Foodborne Illness?
The vast majority of foodborne illnesses are preventable. In most cases, contamination occurs at some point during the food handling process, when someone mishandles the food. It is critical to obtain a diagnosis as soon as possible because the sooner one is made, the easier and more thorough the treatment. But how can someone know whether or not they have been contaminated with salmonella, E. coli or some other foodborne bacteria? Here is a guide to know what to look for.
Foodborne illness, also commonly known as food poisoning, can manifest itself in a number of different ways. Often, depending on the organism, the most common symptoms can begin at various times. In some cases, symptoms will appear within a few hours, while other times it may take a few days, or even a week or two following consumption of the contaminated food. Depending on which contaminant is involved, typical symptoms can include one or more of the following; fatigue, fever, headache, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gastroenteritis, or a number of others.
See a Doctor First
The timing of the appearance of symptoms can be critical. Often, the incubation process for the contaminating can delay the illness. In reality, the delay, which can run from hours to days or even a week or more, can actually be informative to the doctor, who will be trying to identify the pathogen causing your illness. For example, if symptoms occur within 1-6 hours after consuming the food, that can suggest the presence of a bacterial toxin or a chemical reaction, rather than live bacterial infection.
That is one reason those who have severe symptoms should immediately head to an emergency room or at least see your primary care physician. If you are diagnosed with a foodborne illness, contact your local health department as soon as possible. Tell them about the symptoms and the diagnosis and report the establishment where you purchased the food you believe caused your illness. If you know of others with the same symptoms, encourage them to do the same.
Hold Negligent Parties Responsible
If you have been stricken with a foodborne illness, there is no reason you should have to face everything alone. Texas law holds anyone and everyone who can be found negligent in causing your illness responsible for the injuries caused by the contaminated food. In Texas, people claiming food poisoning are generally required to prove three things:
- Liability or Fault: That means you will have to prove the party or parties you believe to be responsible did something wrong at some point in the food preparation process.
- Causation: That means you will have to be able to prove that the negligent act itself caused the contamination that led to your illness.
- Damages: This means you will have to prove that the damages and or losses you suffered were a direct result of consuming the food that was contaminated because of someone’s negligence.
In most food poisoning cases, the person who is making the claim will have to undergo a thorough medical exam, including pathology and labs tests. In addition, there will have to be a thorough investigation into the party or parties who may have mishandled the food. In many cases, the local health department can be a key witness for you, which is why it is important to report any contamination to them as soon as possible after your diagnosis. If possible, if there are any leftovers, they can be tested for contamination. If you have any receipts, keep those, so you can prove when and where you purchased the food.
If you or a loved one has become ill after eating contaminated food, call a doctor or head to the ER immediately for treatment. However, you should also know that, in most cases, the illness was caused by someone else’s negligence, so you may be entitled to compensation, so be sure to contact an experienced Texas Food Poisoning Injury Lawyer, like the one at Hill Law Firm for a free consultation, and get the compensation you may be entitled to.