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Food Poisoning and Foodborne Illness


by Barbara M. Callahan, Esq.

The Food and Drug Administration recently announced a recall of Ocean Beauty Seafoods brand packaged smoked salmon; and as of yesterday this product was off the shelves at my local major grocery store. The FDA does a good job of monitoring our food supply and informing the public of problems which may arise. In this case, the concern was that this salmon was possibly contaminated by listeria monocytogenes. This organism can cause listeriosis, a potentially fatal disease.

Symptoms of listeriosis include severe headache, high fever, nausea and neck stiffness. Listeriosis is rarely contracted by healthy adults. However, in those with weakened immune systems, such as infants, the elderly and chemotherapy patients, listeriosis can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections. Other organisms commonly associated with food poisoning are Campylobacter, Salmonella, E.coli and Clostridium perfringens. Contamination can happen at any point in the food supply chain, from the growers to the grocery stores and restaurants. Should you suspect that you have eaten contaminated food, you should promptly seek medical attention.

Despite the FDA’s best efforts, however, people can still be sickened by tainted food. Sometimes its food that has been identified and subjected to a broad FDA recall; other times its food that has been stored or prepared incorrectly at a local establishment which effects a smaller group of people. Depending on the particular circumstances of the sickness, a claim of food poisoning can be pursued as a product defect action, an action familiar to the tort attorneys at Keches Law Group. In Massachusetts, to be successful with such a claim, you have to show that the probable cause of your illness was contaminated food purchased or consumed at an establishment.

There are several theories of recovery available to those who have consumed contaminated food, including that the defendants acted negligently by failing to exercise reasonable care in growing, distributing or preparing of the contaminated food. Additionally, in Massachusetts, the selling of food unfit for consumption is a breach of the implied warranty of fitness for an ordinary purpose. There may be other theories of liability available based on the particular circumstances. If you or someone you know has been sickened and you suspect food poisoning, you may have a legal claim which we would be happy to discuss with you.

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