Severe Food Poisoning Affects Millions in Ohio and Nationwide, leading to food injury lawsuits and food poisoning settlements

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year an estimated 48 million Americans are infected with a food-borne pathogen as a result of ingesting unsafe foods or beverages.

Because it is so common, the side effects of food poisoning can range from minor discomfort to life-threatening illness. In 2013, 120,000 people were hospitalized due to a food-related illness resulting in 3,000 deaths.

According to the most recent data collected by the CDC, the majority (64 percent) of serious food poisoning outbreaks were caused by food prepared at restaurants, catering events or banquet facilities. Even though they are largely preventable, reported outbreaks of serious food-borne illnesses have been increasing over the last two decades. Reported outbreaks of salmonella, which represent the most widespread impact, increased 39 percent from 2012 to 2013.

There are more than 250 different diseases that can cause food poisoning. The infections are passed to humans from domestic animals such as poultry, pigs, cattle, and pets. However, most often food poisoning results from undercooked meat or unpasteurized milk.

Severe food poisoning often occurs in children, pregnant women, the elderly, or those with weakened immune systems, and in the most severe cases can cause secondary reactions including reactive arthritis, and brain and nerve problems.

Joe Lyon is a Cincinnati Catastrophic Injury Lawyer Ohio Product Liability attorney accepting cases of severe food poisoning nationwide.  If you or your loved one has suffered due to severe food poisoning please call (800) 513-2403.

What Causes Food Poisoning?

There are more than 250 different diseases that can cause food poisoning. These infections are passed to humans in the form of contaminated or under-prepared food. In many cases victims ingest harmful chemicals, heavy metals, and toxins that contaminate a variety of foods through polluted air, water or soil.

Food poisoning occurs when the contaminated food enters the production line — any point during the growing, harvesting, processing, storage, shipping or preparation of the food product. Often cross-contamination and national or international distribution multiply the impacts of a single food outbreak.

The most hazardous culprits include raw foods of animal origin, such as raw meat, poultry, shellfish, uncooked eggs, and unpasteurized milk. Raw fruits and vegetables can also be a concern. Even foods like corn or cereals can contain high levels of mycotoxins, produced by mold on grain.

Severe food poisoning often occurs in children, pregnant women, the elderly, or those with weakened immune systems, and, in the most severe cases,  can cause secondary reactions including reactive arthritis, and brain and nerve problems.

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Food Contamination & Food Production

  1. An animal source is contaminated and the farmer fails to properly test the product before it enters processing.
  2. Fields are sprayed with chemicals
  3. Fish consume toxins or are exposed to toxins
  4. Contaminated water is used to wash the produce
  5. Contaminated water (ice) is used to pack and store the food or meat
  6. Nuts or other food are stored in unclean holding facilities
  7. During meat processing pathogens from the intestines enter the final meat product.
  8. Refrigerated food is left on a holding dock for long periods of time allowing bacteria to grow
  9. Produce is loaded onto a truck that carried animals and was not properly cleaned prior to loading the produce
  10. Leaks in equipment, barrels, or jars expose produce and meats in transport.

Common Types of Food Poisoning

Common Types of Contaminated Food

  • Beef ( E Coli, Salmonella)
  • Vegetable Row Crops (E. Coli)
  • Seeded Vegetables (Salmonella)
  • Fruit (Salmonella, Listeria)
  • Eggs (Salmonella)
  • Chicken (Salmonella, Cambylobacter)
  • Pork (Salmonella)
  • Sprouts (Salmonella)
  • Dairy (Listeria, Cambylobacter)

Largest Food Poisoning Outbreaks

  • Hillfarm Salmonella Outbreak: (1985) Milk contamination that affected 5,295 people and killed 9. Recognized as largest salmonella outbreak in milk.
  • Maple Leaf Foods Listeria Outbreak (2008): Cold cuts contamination that killed 22 people. Recognized as that largest severe food poisoning cases in Canada.
  • Germany E Coli Outbreak (2011): Fenul greek sprouts were contaminated with the bacteria which killed 53 and infected more than 3, 950 individuals. Largest outbreak in Europe.
  • Peanut Corporation Salmonellosis Outbreak (2008): Peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella resulting in nine deaths and over 200 severe food poisoning cases leading to one of the largest food recalls in U.S. History. Former CEO Stewart Parnell was sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Symptoms of Food Poisoning

Most foodborne diseases are characterized by:

•    Fever
•    Cramps
•    Nausea
•    Vomiting
•    Diarrhea

With any food-borne illness, it’s important to consider the time period from food ingestion to first onset of symptoms. This is the “incubation period,” which begins from the time that you ingest a pathogen to the point at which you begin feeling ill. The incubation period varies, depending on the pathogen.

People sometimes assume that the last thing they ate before symptoms is the cause of their illness. This may not be accurate. The incubation period for Salmonella can be as short as six hours or as long as ten days. However, for other dangerous pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes, the incubation period can be up to six weeks, or even longer.

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 Severe Side Effects

Some food-borne pathogens may be more acute and severe than others. According to the World health Organization (WHO), some pathogens can lead to long-term diseases, and may have neurological, hormonal and immunological implications. Long-term disability, organ failure and even certain cancers may result from the ingestion of contaminated food.

Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS):

Post-diarrheal hemolytic uremic syndrome occurs in 10% of individuals infected with E coli 015: H7 or other Shiga- toxin production E-Coli. HUS is a severe and life threatening condition.  E Coli: H7 exposure can arise from food, beverage or person to person.

Questions to Ask an Attorney about a Potential Food Poisoning Case:

  1. How much experience do you have in product liability cases?
  2. How long will a food poisoning lawsuit take?
  3. What evidence must I preserve ?
  4. How should I store any food I think may be contaminated for testing ?
  5. Are there other cases that have been reported to the FDA?
  6. How can I report my case to the FDA?
  7. What are the defenses in my case ?
  8. How does my case compare to other similar severe food poisoning cases ?

Filing a food poisoning lawsuit requires the close consultation and attorney client relationship with a qualified lawyer. While the case may seem straightforward, there are a number of complex legal and factual issues that arise these cases including the preservation of evidence, chain of custody of the product, tracing the origin of the infection, and linking the physical symptoms and illness to the infection.

The cases require expert testimony on liability and damages and are expensive and time consuming to prosecute.  However, with the right facts and counsel, severe food poisoning litigation is important litigation for the individual and public health.

Severe Food Poisoning Lawsuits

  1. Negligence: Failing to properly test the food prior to sale.
  2. Strict Liability: Inherently Dangerous Product. The risks outweigh the benefits  and the food deviates from the production specifications.
  3. Breach of Warranty: The food is not of merchantable quality.
  4. Wrongful Death: If the consumption cases the death of the consumer, the family may bring a claim for wrongful death damages.


  • Destroy any evidence including social media posting
  • Make any statements to an insurance investigator, agent, or private investigator.
  • You may be interviewed by a public health official. You should CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY PRIOR TO MAKING ANY STATEMENTS.  
  • File a lawsuit without consulting an attorney

If you or a loved one has suffered from catastrophic food poisoning and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care in Ohio, contact The Lyon Firm at (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.