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What Causes Food Poisoning?
Everything You Need to Know

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

Food poisoning is a common ailment affecting nearly 80 million people worldwide every year. Most cases of food poisoning are mild, with the infected individual recovering completely within a few days. In other cases, food poisoning can cause severe complications and even death. The experts at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that food poisoning causes close to 5,000 deaths annually in the United States alone.

Food poisoning occurs when an individual consumes food that has been contaminated by a poisoning agent. These agents can include toxins, bacteria, viruses, or parasites. There are more than 250 known agents that have the ability to cause food poisoning. Poisoning from a bacterial agent is a common occurrence.

The 6 most prevalent types of food-borne bacteria are E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, Bacillus cereus, Campylobacter, and Shigella. Because bacteria needs time to multiply, the symptoms for bacterial food poisonings may not manifest until 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated food.

Food poisonings caused by toxins, either naturally occurring in foods like mushrooms or as a by product of a bacterial infestation, are also fairly common. For example, botulism is caused by the toxins produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. As the amount of bacteria in the food increases, the amount of toxins secreted by the bacteria also increases, causing the food to become more toxic with every passing hour. Much information about the agents that can cause food poisoning is still unknown, with close to 60% of outbreaks caused by unknown sources.

Food contamination can occur when food is mishandled, from improper preparation techniques, or from inadequate food storage. Outbreaks of food poisoning tends to occur at large social functions, picnics, and in school cafeterias, all places where large amounts of food are sitting out for extended periods of time and are eaten by a large number of people. Contact between food and pests, especially rodents, cockroaches, or flies, are another common source of food contamination.

Food that has not been cooked thoroughly can cause food poisoning, because the bacterium responsible for causing illness has not been exposed to a high enough heat source for a long enough time to kill the bacteria. Some foods are naturally toxic, such as some varieties of mushrooms and reef fish, while others may be contaminated with medicines or pesticides.

Annually, food poisonings are responsible for 8 million deaths worldwide. Elderly individuals and infants are the most susceptible to food poisoning, followed by pregnant women, individuals with weakened immune systems, and people who frequently travel outside of the United States. Some types of food poisoning can be transmitted to the fetus in-utero, so pregnant women need to be very careful what they eat.

Many types of food poisoning are considered medical emergencies due to the severe complications that food poisoning can cause.

Emergency medical treatment is recommended if an individual experiences any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Experiencing any signs of dehydration (lightheaded, dizziness, excessive thirst, or feeling faint)
  • Racing pulse or pounding heart
  • Excessive weakness or partial paralysis
  • Double vision
  • Trouble swallowing

Emergency medical treatment can mean the difference between life and death when it comes to food poisoning. Individuals that expect food poisoning is the cause of their illness should warn any others that may have eaten the same food. It is also important to make the medical technicians aware that food poisoning may be the cause of the illness and let them know what type of food may have caused the problem.

The Information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or legal advice. If you feel that you or someone you know has food poisoning, seek medical attention immediately by visiting your doctor of by dialing 911.

Related Article: Listeria Outbreak Lawsuit

Do I have a Food Poisoning Lawsuit?

The Personal Injury Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus exclusively on the representation of plaintiffs in food poisoning lawsuits. We are handling individual and group outbreak litigation nationwide and currently accepting new food poisoning cases in all 50 states.

If you or a loved one have been the victim of food poisoning, you should contact us immediately. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries by filing a food poisoning lawsuit and we can help.

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