FAQs about Food Poisoning

San Jose Food Poisoning Lawyers

Whether you or a loved one came down with a stomach cramp and diarrhea recently, and you suspect that a foodborne pathogen may be to blame; or a family member just spent time in the hospital recovering from a food illness, and you suspect that a careless restauranteur may have been to blame; these frequently asked questions about food poisoning can equip you with critical knowledge to protect your rights and health. At Caputo & Van Der Walde LLP, our San Jose food poisoning attorneys aim to hold negligent parties responsible for their reckless actions. Call today to speak with our firm!

Question: What are some food poisoning statistics?

Answer: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 76 million cases of food poisoning occur each year. Food poisoning is incredibly costly. Some estimates suggest that salmonella-based food poisoning alone leeches $1 billion from the economy in lost productivity and hospital bills.

Question: What causes food poisoning?

Answer: There are two basic causes: Infectious agents, like bacteria and viruses; and toxic compounds, like the compounds found in poisonous mushrooms or uncooked blowfish.

Let's examine both of these causes in more detail.

1. The infectious causes

  • Viruses – Dozens of different viruses can cause food poisoning or food poisoning-like symptoms. The most common groups of viruses include Hepatitis A, rotaviruses, and noroviruses. The so-called "stomach flu" is usually caused by a norovirsus, also known as a calicivirus. Rotaviruses can be found in feces and can lead to more severe food poisoning symptoms, such as high fever and significant diarrhea. Children and infants may be at risk for rotavirus infection, particularly if they play in dirty shared facilities. Hepatitis A can also be transferred from feces into food and can cause mild to significant illnesses as well as jaundice (yellowing of the eyes).
  • Bacteria – Bacteria can infect the body directly, driving inflammation, particularly in the intestines. Bacteria can also cause the production of toxic chemical compounds, which can have primary and secondary effects on the digestive system and other organ systems. These toxic chemicals can cause problems like renal failure (trouble with your kidneys) as well as vomiting, headaches, and even death. Individuals with weaker immune systems -- such as the elderly, the very young, and the very sick -- tend to be more at risk for the more significant dangerous effects. Common bacterial causes of food poisoning include E. coli, bacillus cereus, staphylococcus aureus, salmonellae, and campylobacter.
  • Parasites – Hundreds of different parasites can cause food poisoning or food poisoning-like symptoms. These include worms, paramecia, fungi, and larger and more sophisticated parasites. One parasite, the tape worm, actually literally consumes the food you eat before your body can absorb the nutrients. Hence, infected victims may develop a voracious hunger.

2. Toxic elements

Toxic compounds in plants, flowers, mushrooms, and certain meats can lead to problems ranging from simple flu-like symptoms that go away after 24 to 48 hours to potentially life-threatening problems with the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system. One of the most famous and memorable kinds of toxic-driven food poisoning involves the Japanese seafood delicacy fugu - a kind of blowfish. Sushi chefs train for years to prepare fugu correctly. Improperly treated fugu can be so poisonous that diners will die from consuming a miniscule amount of the toxic compounds.

Question: What are general symptoms of food poisoning?

Answer: Symptoms depend on a variety of factors, including your relative health, the nature of the contamination, the medical help you receive (and how soon you get it), and your own biochemistry and genetic predispositions. Common symptoms include diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, blood while passing stool, fever, and flu-like symptoms.

Question: How do I know if I have been "food poisoned"?

Answer: According to the CDC and other independent sources, many cases of food poisoning go completely below the radar. Oftentimes, food poisoning is mistaken for some other problem - like the flu. In some cases, the symptoms may be mild enough to ignore. In other cases, the symptoms may not manifest until days after the toxic food has been ingested. For instance, say you ate an undercooked hamburger on Monday. This burger gives you salmonella poisoning. You may not feel any symptoms from the poisoning until Wednesday. Thus, it can be tough to trace back and prove that a specific food gave you the poisoning.

Question: What are some common infectious agents that cause poisoning?

Answer: Common viruses include noroviruses, rotaviruses, and hepatitis. Common bacterial agents include staphylococcus aureus, campylobacter, salmonella, and escherichia coli.

Question: Will cooking and / or freezing food destroy pathogens and toxic compounds?

Answer: The answer obviously depends on the kinds of compound and the heat change. In general, viruses and bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses are more resistant to cold than they are to heat. This is why refrigerating or even freezing food may not kill viruses or bacteria, but cooking the food will do the job. That said, some viruses and bacteria can withstand even high temperatures - and foods can also be re-contaminated after they have been cooked, especially during handling and storage.

Question: What can I do if I suspect that another party caused or contributed to my food poisoning?

Answer: Connect with our San Jose food poisoning lawyers at Caputo & Van Der Walde LLP in Northern California. Call (800) 900-0863 for your free case evaluation.

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