According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), foodborne diseases sicken roughly 48 million Americans yearly. To put it another way, 1 in every 6 people in the United States will become sick this year after eating contaminated food.
Wait – there’s more: Foodborne diseases annually put 128,000 people in the hospital – and 3,000 victims will die.
Last year was no exception to those statistics. Here’s a look back at 2017 for three of the most common foodborne pathogens:
Escherichia coli – or E. coli – bacteria normally live in the intestines of mammals. Anyone can become infected by eating food contaminated with E. coli, but people with the highest risk of developing complications (see below) include young children, the elderly, and people with suppressed immune systems.
There were numerous E. coli outbreaks in 2017. Here is a look at just a few:
- Nearly 85 Marine recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot and Camp Pendleton in San Diego were hospitalized in October and November. Nine patients developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe complication that can lead to life-threatening kidney failure. Military medical facilities cared for most of the affected personnel, but an off-base hospital admitted 17 recruits. The cause of the outbreak is still under investigation.
- Thirty-two people from 12 states were sickened with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 between Jan. 4 and April 18, and testing indicated that I.M. Health-brand Soy Nut Butter was the likely source, resulting in a recall. Twelve people were hospitalized, including nine who developed HUS. The victims ranged in age from 1 to 70 years, with a median age of 9, according to the CDC.
- A multi-state investigation of E. coli 0157:H7 infection by the CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently underway after 24 people were sickened in 15 states between Nov. 15 and Dec. 8. The government agencies are trying to determine whether the illnesses are connected to an E. coli outbreak in Canada. The source of the Canadian outbreak was identified as romaine lettuce by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
E. coli symptoms
After eating food contaminated with E. coli, symptoms usually occur within 3-4 days after the exposure and can include:
- severe abdominal cramping
- diarrhea, often bloody
- loss of appetite
- decreased urination.
Complication of E. coli
As many as 10 percent of those infected with E. coli develop HUS, which can be life-threatening. HUS typically develops after a long bout with E. coli-produced diarrhea. The disease damages red blood cells, which clog the kidney’s filtering abilities, resulting in kidney failure. In severe cases, a transplant might be necessary.
Salmonella bacteria sicken as many as 1 million Americans annually, according to the CDC. Salmonellosis, which affects the intestinal tract, is one of the most common types of food poisoning year in and year out.
The CDC estimates that of those 1 million annual cases, 19,000 result in hospitalization, and approximately 380 end in death. People most at risk for complications are children under 5, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.
There were numerous Salmonella outbreaks in 2017. Here is a look at a few:
- Five different strains of Salmonella sickened 220 people in 23 states between May 17 and Oct. 4. The cause was Maradol papayas from the Carica de Campeche farm in Mexico. Sixty-eight people required hospitalization, and one death was reported (in New York City). The ages of those sickened ranged from 1 to 95, with a median age of 40.
- The Virginia Department of Health said it traced an outbreak of 180 illnesses to clam chowder made by the Crab Shack of Chincoteague. The outbreak had its roots in the Chincoteague Chili Chowder Cook Off held Sept. 30. Of the 180 reported illnesses, approximately 90 of those who took ill sought medical care, and 36 of those received emergency-room care. Eighteen people were hospitalized for one or more nights.
- At least five people were hospitalized and 70 people sickened Nov. 14-15 during Toyo Tire’s Thanksgiving dinner in White, GA. The contaminated food item responsible was identified as turkey provided by the caterer, Angelo’s New York Style Pizza and Bistro in Cartersville, GA
- Two Burger King restaurants in Bemidji, MN, were temporarily closed Nov. 30 after at least 27 people contracted Salmonella. Most cases were identified in September, but the victims may have been exposed to Salmonella before then. Two additional cases were revealed in late November, prompting the closures.
- An outbreak that sickened 18 people in Washington and Oregon was traced to pre-cut fruit. The products were purchased from four grocery-story chains: Fred Meyer, QFC, Rosauers, and Central Market.
Salmonellosis can develop anywhere from 12 hours to three days after ingestion and can last up to a week. Symptoms can include:
- abdominal pain
Complications of Salmonella
Complications of salmonellosis can occur when the Salmonella bacteria enter the bloodstream. Those complications can produce conditions such as:
- Meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord
- Endocarditis, an infection of the heart’s inner lining usually involving the heart valves
- Osteomyelitis, a bone inflammation that usually targets the arms, legs, or spine
- Reactive arthritis (also known as Reiter’s syndrome), a form of inflammatory arthritis that develops in response to a Salmonella infection in another part of the body.
Listeria monocytogenes – also called L. monocytogenes or, more commonly, Listeria – produces listeriosis, a serious illness usually contracted by eating contaminated food. The CDC estimates that about 1,600 Americans contract Listeria yearly, and about 260 of those who become sick die. Because listeriosis can escalate quickly and become dangerous, those infected generally require hospitalization.
In 2017, there was one notable Listeria outbreak:
- Eight people from four states, including a newborn, were sickened between Sept. 1, 2016, and March 13, 2017, because of contaminated raw-milk cheeses. Two people, from Connecticut and Vermont, died. On March 10, Vulto Creamery of Walton, NY, recalled all lots of its raw-milk cheeses, which were distributed nationwide.
The Listeria incubation period can be anywhere from three days to two months, although symptoms usually present in the first 30 days. Those symptoms can include:
- muscle aches
- nausea or diarrhea.
Complications can occur if infection spreads to the nervous system, and then symptoms can worsen to include:
- stiff neck
- loss of balance
Complications of Listeria
Like many other foodborne pathogens, Listeria grow in the digestive system but can spread via the bloodstream to infect major organs and the central nervous system, including the brain. If the infection spreads to the central nervous system, it can result in bacterial meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord.
Listeria can infect anyone, but those most at risk of serious complications are:
- pregnant women
- newborn babies
- senior citizens
- people with suppressed immune systems.
Pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness. They must be particularly vigilant, however, because Listeria can spread to the baby and result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or infection of the baby. The CDC estimates that about 20 percent of affected pregnancies end in loss of the fetus, and 3 percent end in stillbirth.
Elliot Olsen has more than two decades’ experience representing people harmed by foodborne diseases, and he has regained millions of dollars in compensation for them. If you or a family member has become sick after eating contaminated food, please call 612-337-6126, or complete the following: