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Top 10 Culprits of Food Poisoning

According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food poisoning affects 1 in 6 Americans annually. This means approximately 48 million people become ill due to contaminated food this year. Out of this number, 128,000 will be hospitalized and 3,000 cases will be fatal.

When we eat food from a restaurant or grocery store, our expectations are that it is safe for human consumption. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Contamination of food can occur at any stage in the production process – from growing, harvesting and shipping, to processing, storing and even during the preparation stage.

Below are some of the major culprits that can cause food poisoning and food-related illness according to the Mayo Clinic. These contaminants are common and generally contaminate certain types of foods.

  • Listeria – A type of bacteria that can be found in soil and water. It often contaminates foods such as hot dogs, lunch meats, some cheeses and raw, unwashed leafy vegetables.

  • Campylobacter – Affects meat and poultry during processing if feces come into contact with the meat. It can also be found in contaminated water or unpasteurized milk. The onset of feeling sick from this toxin is generally 2-5 days after contact.

  • Hepatitis A – Present in shellfish and produce sourced from contaminated water. Hepatitis A can be easily transferred by a human handler and takes longer than most foodborne viruses to infect its host. People generally don't feel the effects of this for approximately 28 days.

  • Noroviruses – Similar to Hepatitis A in that it is primarily found in contaminated shellfish and ready-to-eat produce. The difference is you will know you are sick within 24 to 48 hours.

  • Rotavirus – Derived from raw and ready-to-eat produce. It is similar to Hepatitis A and Norovirus in that it can be spread from a food handler easily. Rotavirus will generally take 1-3 days to make a person feel ill.

  • Salmonella – Can be spread not only through infected food handlers, but also through the utensils and cutting surfaces that were used by the handler. Generally, salmonella is found in contaminated meat, poultry, egg yolks and milk. If something is not cooked adequately, salmonella will survive and spread. A person will typically know they are sick within 1 to 3 days.

  • Staphylococcus Aureus – One of the fastest acting contaminants, making a person ill within 1 to 6 hours. Always cover your nose when sneezing and coughing because this is one way this particular toxin spreads. It can be found in prepared salads, meats, cream-filled pastries and cream sauces.

  • Vibrio Vulnificus – Can cause a person to become ill anywhere from 1 to 7 days. Contaminated seawater is often where this poison lurks. Whole scallops, raw oysters, raw or undercooked mussels or clams are the foods it thrives. When eating seafood, always make sure you feel comfortable with how it was prepared.

  • E-Coli – Often found in beef that was contaminated with feces during the slaughter process. It can be spread mainly when ground beef is not cooked properly. It can also be spread through unpasteurized milk and apple cider, contaminated water or alfalfa sprouts.

  • Clostridium Perfringens – Another fast moving virus that can make a person ill anywhere from 8 to 16 hours. It's mainly found in dishes that were not properly chilled or not kept hot enough, such as stews and gravies. This is the one you have to keep an eye on at family reunions!

These ten food poisoning contaminants have been known to cause severe illness and some even death. If you or a loved one has been greatly harmed by food poisoning or a foodborne illness, contact Colorado's personal injury attorney R. Mack Babcock for a free consultation. We will ask you questions about your experience to determine if a food preparer or manufacturer can be held liable for your injuries.

Continue browsing our blog, knowledge center and the articles below for more information about personal injury law and seeking compensation for food poisoning.

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