When Food Causes Severe Illnesses or Even Death

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that that each year roughly 1 out of 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases. Here are a few examples:

  • Cantaloupes from a Colorado farm were linked to the listeria outbreak that killed 29 people making it officially the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in the United States since 1924.
  • Missouri health officials say 32 people in and around St. Louis were confirmed to have been infected by the same strain of pathogenic E. coli from a grocery store salad bar.
  • There was a loud public outrage demanding “Dolphin Safe” tuna (not catching dolphin in tuna fishing nets). The greater concern is the mercury levels. Children under six and pregnant women have been incorrectly told they can eat 12 ounces of light canned tuna per week for every 100 pounds of body weight. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they should not eat any tuna.

However, most foodborne infections go undiagnosed and unreported, either because the ill person does not see a doctor, or the doctor does not make a specific diagnosis. The CDC estimates that for every case of Salmonella infection diagnosed and reported, 38 cases actually occur.

The attorneys at Janet, Jenner & Suggs have handled several cases of what are known as “foodborne illnesses” including E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonellosis from contaminated food products. Attorney Robert K. Jenner heads the Janet, Jenner & Suggs Product Liability Division at the firm. Along with Hal J. Kleinman and a dedicated team including a physician and nurse paralegals, we work with some of the nation’s leading experts in food manufacturing liability and foodborne illnesses.

Causes of Foodborne Outbreaks

There are three basic reasons that food becomes contaminated:

  1. Fruits and vegetables grown in contaminated soil, fertilizer, and/or water.
  2. Fish and animals that are exposed to or take in chemicals and poisons—like mercury.
  3. Food preparation in which foods are not washed properly or the food preparers are spreading their illnesses or contamination to the food.

Out of all these cases of foodborne illness, there are about 400-500 foodborne outbreaks investigated by local and state health departments each year. An outbreak of foodborne illness occurs when a group of people consumes the same contaminated food and two or more of them come down with the same illness. It may be a group that ate a meal together somewhere, or it may be a group of people who do not know each other at all, but who all happened to buy and eat the same contaminated item from a grocery store or restaurant. For an outbreak to occur, something must have happened to contaminate a batch of food that was eaten by the group of people. Somewhere along the line “from farm to fork” most, if not all, of these outbreaks can be prevented before they reach your fork.

Symptoms of Foodborne Illness

A health care provider should be consulted for a diarrhea illness if accompanied by

  • High fever (temperature over 101.5 F, measured orally)
  • Blood in the stools
  • Prolonged vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration)
  • Signs of dehydration, including a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up.
  • Diarrhea illness that lasts more than 3 days

Holding Manufacturers Responsible

Manufacturers—not the FDA or the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA)—are Responsible for consumer safety. Regrettably, for some companies, the drive for profits trumps the need to establish and maintain safety. In an attempt to keep food prices down and profits up, food products are often processed without adequate testing or safety measures in place to ensure wholesomeness. When manufacturers/processors choose to avoid their responsibilities to the public, the results are often tragic – and predictable.

Though the manufacturers/processors often try to blame the FDA or USDA, the truth is that they are ultimately responsible for consumer safety. While the FDA and USDA have inspectors, their authority is limited. Minimal safety standards and recommendations that should be the industry standard are made by the FDA and USDA, but it is up to the manufacturers/processors to establish their own internal safety measures to prevent foodborne illnesses. These decisions, which are measured against profits, can put people’s lives at risk.

Our Medically Related Cases

With our more than 30 years of medical and legal experience, we understand these foodborne illnesses and are able to legally connect the cause to the responsible manufacturers. Our lawyers have successfully represented clients – both individually and in groups (mass tort), who have been injured by foodborne illnesses from such food items as hot dogs, hamburgers, pot pies, deli meats, and more.

Combining Legal And Medical Expertise

Janet, Jenner & Suggs has a team of legal and medical professionals to help people who have fallen victim to a contaminated food product. We are prepared to represent you individually or as part of a mass tort litigation. Our continued success in obtaining recoveries has earned us a national reputation for bringing these issues to light and helping people restore their lives.

Learn How to Prevent and Identify Foodborne Illness

“Food Poisoning” or Something Else? How to Tell

CSI: The Food Version

If You See This in a Restaurant, Don’t Eat There

Salmonella. You’ve Heard of It, Now Learn About It

Restaurant “Secrets” You Should Know

“I Found a Dead Fly in My Soup”

USDA Ready to “Beef” Up Testing for E. coli

Summer Time Food Safety: Invite Guests, not Foodborne Illness

Listeria: A Rare but Deadly Bug

Tips for Safe Handling of Ground Beef

Food Poisoning Scare: Why Washing Fruits and Vegetables is Critical

E. coli: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


contact an attorney

Math Captcha69 + = 74

There is no charge for this consultation. If you have a valid case that moves forward, we will work on a contingency fee basis. That is, we do not get paid unless you do. The use of the Internet for communications with the firm will not establish an attorney-client relationship; however, your responses here will be kept strictly confidential.

Practicing nationwide on a Pro Hac Vice basis.