Eating Out with E. Coli and The Dangers of Food Contamination

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Chipotle’s hope for a smooth 2016 is not going well so far. The Mexican restaurant chain has been subpoenaed in a federal investigation involving an outbreak of norovirus which sickened over 200 people in Simi Valley, California, last August. The company is still trying to recover from two E. coli outbreaks and another problem with the norovirus that lead to restaurant closings and a change in their food preparation policy. That started in October when 11 Chipotle locations were shut down in Oregon and Washington due to contamination from Escherichia coli bacteria (better known as E. coli). By the end of the year, 53 customers were sickened in nine states across the country with 20 people being admitted to the hospital. In addition, 141 college students contracted the norovirus at a Chipotle location in Boston in December.

Chipotle was not the only company hit hard by food contamination. All American Meats recalled over 167,000 pounds of ground beef in November over a possible link to E. coli. Taylor Farms Pacific was forced to take its celery products out of stores after the bacteria in the food led to 19 people in seven states falling ill. Two of those unfortunate consumers developed a form of kidney failure. The celery had made its way into a rotisserie chicken salad sold in Costco, which the store then removed from its shelves. A 30 year old Montana woman has already filed a lawsuit against the retailer when she became ill after eating the chicken salad.

The most common exposure to E. Coli comes from eating undercooked ground beef or raw vegetables which have not been cleaned properly. Ingesting just a small amount of the contaminated food can make you sick. Symptoms usually begin within three to five days after exposure and include abdominal cramping and various degrees of diarrhea which subside after time. However, more severe strains of E. coli can damage the lining of the small intestines and cause a form of kidney failure, especially in young children and seniors.

Food contamination including E. coli has become an all too often occurrence. According to The Centers for Disease Control, one in six Americans are sickened by the food they eat each year. That’s more than 48 million people. The CDC director says over the past 20 years the number of major food contamination outbreaks has tripled. The norovirus which affected the customers in Simi Valley and the Boston college students is the most common foodborne illness. While it is not as severe as E. Coli, it can still cause diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

Even before the current legal issues for Chipotle, the company issued a statement in December that it would develop a new safety plan for the handling of food including how vegetables are washed and prepped. The public can only hope that all restaurants and food manufactures are serious about the safety of their food and the health of their customers. If you or someone you love has become ill due to any type of food contamination, including E. coli, please call an experienced attorney at Finz & Finz, P.C., to help you receive compensation for your suffering.