October 5, 2020

Learn How Romaine Lettuce Is Contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 Bacteria

With many E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce in 2017, 2018, and 2019, food safety experts are concerned that another outbreak could occur in 2020. Let's take a look at how romaine lettuce is contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in the first place. That pathogen exists in the guts of ruminant animals, more specifically, cows and sheep. Deer can also carry it. How does it travel from those animals to farm fields? There are several factors that come into play here. First, many concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are located near fields where romaine and other leafy greens are grown. Second, feces can contaminate ground water and canals that are a source of irrigation water. And third, two of the physical attributes of the lettuce play a role. E. … [Read more...]

Forty Leafy Greens STEC Outbreaks Occurring During 2009 to 2018

The October 2020 issue of the CDC's Emerging Infectious Diseases has a study about E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks from 2009 to 2018 and found that there were forty leafy greens STEC outbreaks during that time frame. STEC is Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria, most often E. coli O157:H7. Those outbreaks caused 1,212 illnesses, 77 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and eight deaths. More of those outbreaks were linked to romaine lettuce than any other type of leafy green. Forty-five percent of those outbreaks occurred in the fall, and 28% occurred in the spring. Leafy greens are the second most common source of foodborne STEC outbreaks, after ground beef. The connection between those two products is that cattle are considered the major reservoir for the pathogen, and STEC … [Read more...]

Restaurant Food Safety Fails When Training Fails

As food safety lawyers, people have been asking us (from a distance) how worried they should be about COVID-19 and the safety of their takeout food? While we can’t tell them about viral transmission rates via various sources – we’re lawyers, not scientists - we can tell them what we have learned from years of representing people sickened by germs in restaurant food. Good sanitary conditions and safe food preparation processes and procedures (food safety plans) are very important…but it all fails when employee training fails. Obviously, when food safety plans are bad (for example, if they do not include proper testing of food storage areas for correct temperature control or mandate specific locations to keep raw foods from cross-contaminating cooked foods) then germs can spread. Too … [Read more...]

How Do You Know If You Have a Cyclospora Infection?

Every year for the last several years in the United States, there has been a massive cyclospora outbreak that sickens thousands. In fact, last year several cyclospora outbreaks sickened more than 2,400 people. One of those outbreaks that was linked to imported fresh basil sickened more than 240 people across the country and was the number four outbreak for 2019. So how do you know if you have a cyclospora infection? Cyclosporiasis is the illness caused by this single celled parasite called Cyclospora cayetanensis. People get sick by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the parasite. This infection is not spread person-to-person, since the oocyte needs time, usually one to two weeks, to sporulate and become infectious after it is expelled in feces. The parasite is … [Read more...]

Cryptosporidium Outbreaks Have Increased by 13% Year Over Year

According to a study published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, cryptosporidium outbreaks in 40 states and Puerto Rico have increased by 13% year over year in this country. Leading causes for this illness include swallowing contaminated water in pools or water playgrounds, contact with infected cattle, and contact with infected people in childcare settings. From 2009 to 2017, there were 444 cryptosporidiosis outbreaks from 40 states and Puerto Rico that caused 7,465 illnesses. Twenty-two of those outbreaks were associated with unpasteurized milk and apple cider. And the report states that the outbreaks likely underestimate the actual number of cryptosporidiosis outbreaks, and the reported number of cases "likely underestimate the actual magnitude of individual … [Read more...]

Foodborne Illnesses Increased in 2018 Compared to 2015-2017

Foodborne illnesses increased in 2018 compared to the period of 2015-2017, according to a new report by the Center for Disease Control for its Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report for the week of April 26, 2019. The report states that this increase may are partially attributable to increased culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs). CIDT identifies pathogens that were not routinely detected by other methods. During 2018, FoodNet identified 25,606 infections, 5,893 hospitalizations, and 120 deaths. The incidence of cyclospora infections increased "markedly," in 2018 because there were several large outbreaks associated with produce. And the number of illnesses caused by Campylobacter and Salmonella remain high. FoodNet surveils the population for lab-diagnosed infections … [Read more...]

Lawyer Asks: Why Are There Ground Beef E. coli Outbreaks?

One April, 2019 morning, amidst the ongoing ground beef E. coli O103 outbreak affecting much of the east-central United States, one of the attorneys on the foodborne illness team at the Pritzker Hageman law firm began her weekly meal preparation ritual. She went to her freezer and grabbed two pounds of frozen ground beef, defrosted it, and put it in a frying pan to brown. She has said her family of four goes through so much ground beef that she regularly fill my freezer with a “quarter of beef” raised by her father and processed by a local butcher shop. Her family "lives on it". In the U.S., a family’s subsistence on ground beef is not uncommon. For 2018, Americans were projected to eat 222.2 pounds of meat and poultry, each. According to the self-proclaimed “best information … [Read more...]

CDC Surveillance Report Reveals Outbreak Numbers, But Not Consequences of Foodborne Illness

The CDC Surveillance Report for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks from 2009 - 2015 was released in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report today. The numbers show that food poisoning outbreaks remain a serious health problem in this country, causing millions of illnesses every year. But what the raw numbers don't reveal is how these largely preventable illnesses wreak havoc on individual lives and families. During the time frame of the report, the CDC's Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System received reports of 5,760 outbreaks that caused more than 100,000 illnesses, more than 5500 hospitalizations, and 145 deaths. These outbreak illnesses are a small fraction of the actual number of food poisoning cases that occur every year. The government estimates that 48,000,000 … [Read more...]

It’s State and County Fairs Time; Stay Safe at Animal Exhibits

As summer winds down and fall approaches, state and county fairs are underway. The CDC is warning parents and caregivers about ways to protect yourself and your children against E. coli and other illnesses that have been linked to those events. Animals exhibits and petting zoos at county and state fairs have been the source of E. coli outbreaks in the past few years. From 2010 to 2015, about 100 outbreaks of illness were linked to animals in public settings. These outbreaks have been caused by E. coli O157:H7, Cryptosporidium, and Salmonella bacteria. Last year, eight people were sickened with E. coli infections after visiting the Mesa County Fair in Colorado Junction, Colorado. An E. coli outbreak in Minnesota in 2014 was linked to Zerebko Zoo Tran, a traveling petting zoo. At … [Read more...]

Prevent Clostridium Perfringens Illnesses This Holiday Season

Clostridium perfringens food poisoning cases tend to spike around the holiday season. This bacteria causes almost 1,000,000 cases of food poisoning every year. The bacteria grows when large pots and containers of food are not kept from the danger zone of 40°F to 140°F. Restaurants, nursing homes, potlucks, and large parties are usually the sources of this type of outbreak. So FoodSafety.gov is offering tips to help stop this type of food poisoning. The bacteria is found on raw meat and poultry, in the environment, and in the intestines of people and animals. Some strains produce a toxin as the bacteria grows. This type of food poisoning has a sudden and fast onset, usually within a few hours of exposure to the pathogenic bacteria. Diarrhea is the main symptoms. This type of … [Read more...]

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