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12/22/22   |   By

Listeria and Food Poisoning

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When you purchase food from a restaurant or store, you trust that the product is safe to eat as long as you follow the proper preparation procedures. But you probably have experienced food poisoning yourself or know someone who has, because it is a common occurrence, especially when purchasing ready-to-eat food.

If you or a loved one have suffered an illness from eating contaminated food, you may be entitled to compensation. A food poisoning lawyer from Regan Zambri Long can help you prove the facts of your case and bring a product liability suit against the responsible party.

Food poisoning is a common occurrence in restaurants, cafeterias, and other places that serve ready-to-eat or freshly prepared foods. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 1 in 6 Americans experience foodborne sickness each year. As many as 128,000 are hospitalized for it and 3,000 American die from food poisoning each year. Although the majority of healthy people rarely suffer serious complications, people with weakened immune systems can suffer severe infections or even life-threatening infections.

What Are the Most Common Ways to Get Food Poisoning?

You can contract a case of food poisoning at home, at a restaurant or cafeteria, or when purchasing prepackaged foods that don’t require further cooking. Some of the most common ways contaminated food makes you sick are through improper preparation/cooking, improper storage of raw foods or leftovers, and cross-contamination, where an already contaminated food touches or otherwise spreads bacteria to another food. You can also get food poisoning if someone who has handled the food is sick or otherwise spreads germs to the food.

The best and easiest way to avoid foodborne illness is by ensuring food is prepared and cooked correctly, however some foods that are marketed as ready to eat carry an increased risk for contamination. These include soft cheeses, prepackaged sandwiches and salads, hot dogs, deli meats, and other deli foods.

What Are the Most Commonly Contaminated Foods?

Linking food poisoning to specific foods or ingredients is challenging, almost impossible to accomplish. However, when an outbreak occurs because of a wide distribution of contaminated food, it becomes possible to trace illness to the contamination. A study by the CDC tracked outbreaks linked to 17 food groups, including fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, meats, grains and beans, oils and sugars, and produce.

Produce was found to contribute to 46 percent of outbreak illnesses, while meats contributed to 22 percent and dairy and eggs to 20 percent.

Although the study found produce to be a more common culprit of contamination, the CDC says that raw animal products are more likely to be contaminated. Raw or undercooked meats and eggs, unpasteurized milk, and raw shellfish are the most likely foods to be contaminated.

Are Ready-to-Eat Foods Safe?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends consuming ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible after purchasing them in order to avoid contamination and food poisoning. Although these foods can be at higher risk for carrying contaminants, regulations ensure that, in general, if you consume or store the food correctly in a timely fashion, ready-to-eat foods are safe for most people.

What Causes Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning is caused by germs and pathogens in the food that you eat. These have different levels of severity and different symptoms, though most cases show mild symptoms and cause only mild illness. Some of the most common include:

E. coli

Escherichia coli, particularly Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, can often spread through raw meat and poultry, produce, and raw dairy. It is a common and highly contagious foodborne illness with common flu-like symptoms of diarrhea, stomach cramps, low fever, and vomiting. The CDC estimates that 265,000 people are infected with this bacteria each year. Infections usually show symptoms within four days of contraction. Severe cases can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome in the kidneys, which can be fatal.


Another common foodborne illness, salmonella is commonly spread through poultry and meats, produce, raw dairy, and eggs. The CDC estimates that salmonella is responsible for 1.35 million infections each year, with 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths annually. Symptoms are similar to other flu-like symptoms and usually begin anywhere from six hours to six days after infection. In a severe form of infection, the victim may require hospitalization.


A Campylobacter infection is most common from raw or undercooked poultry, though it can also spread from raw dairy. CDC estimates put Campylobacter infections at around 1.5 million people annually. Diarrhea and abdominal pain often manifest within five days of ingesting the bacteria. Severe cases can lead to infection in the bloodstream and life-threatening conditions.

Listeria Monocytogenes

Listeria monocytogenes are a group of bacteria that cause listeriosis. The CDC estimates that 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, with 250 people dying from the infection annually. As with other foodborne illnesses, listeriosis is of greater concern to pregnant women and their newborn babies, elderly people, and people with weakened immune systems. In fact, pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get listeriosis, which can cause preterm labor, stillbirth, or miscarriage.

When a person suffers from a listeria infection in the intestines, it is rarely diagnosed as such. Symptoms of listeriosis include diarrhea and vomiting. But if the infection becomes invasive (leaves the intestines) you may experience more severe listeriosis symptoms including fever, muscle aches, fatigue, stiff neck, or even seizures.

Where Is Listeria Commonly Found?

Listeria has long been known to thrive in delis and similar environments because it is hard to kill and spreads easily across counters and slicers. Cold cuts, deli meats, hot dogs, and deli cheeses are known sources of listeria infection outbreaks. Increasingly, listeria infection outbreaks are being linked to dairy products and produce, including soft cheeses and ice creams and celery, sprouts, and melons.

Who Is Most at Risk for Food Poisoning?

According to the CDC, some groups of people are more likely to experience serious effects from food poisoning than others. These at-risk groups include:

  • People over the age of 65
  • Children under the age of 5
  • Pregnant women and their newborn or unborn babies
  • People with weak immune systems, whether due to health conditions or medications. This includes people with diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and liver or kidney diseases.

Although these groups are at higher risk, even healthy individuals outside these demographics can still come down with serious cases of food poisoning.

How Is Food Safety Ensured?

Whether you are ordering food at a restaurant or cafeteria, purchasing prepackaged foods, or simply doing your usual grocery shopping, rules and regulations exist to help ensure that your food is safe to eat.

In restaurants and cafeterias, regular health inspections ensure that food preparation and storage procedures are followed and cleaning and sanitizing procedures are implemented to avoid cross-contamination. Delis and other places serving ready-to-eat foods are held to similar standards to ensure that the food you purchase truly is safe to consume without requiring any additional cooking.

Additionally, any business selling or serving food is responsible for paying attention to recalls on foods linked to outbreaks. The CDC actively updates its ongoing outbreak investigation page to keep people up-to-date on potential risks.

Any businesses or individuals who fail to meet the standards for food safety and sanitation not only run the risk of getting in trouble with the Health Department, but they also open themselves up to food poisoning claims and lawsuits if a person can prove their illness resulted from the food provided by the business.

Is Food Poisoning a Serious Problem?

The CDC estimates that 48 million Americans suffer from food poisoning each year. Many of these cases are comparatively mild. Although trips to the bathroom and feeling under the weather are not ideal for anyone, food poisoning is often no more serious than the flu. But in some cases, food poisoning can cause serious illness and injury. When that happens, you should be able to seek justice and compensation for your suffering. If you believe that your food poisoning case is serious enough for redress, you should schedule a free case evaluation with Regan Zambri Long. Our attorneys will review your case and advise you of your rights and next steps.

Can I Sue for Contaminated Foods?

If contaminated food makes you sick you can file a claim against the party responsible. However, proving that your illness is linked to a specific food can be challenging. If your food poisoning does not result in a trip to the emergency room or a hospital stay, likely, a lawyer will not recommend moving forward with a lawsuit, as it can be expensive and time-consuming, with no guarantee that a recovery will be made.

If you can definitively prove that a certain food made you sick, your case will be much stronger. For example, if a recall has been issued for a certain food due to known contamination, and you were served it or purchased it after the recall, you may have a food poisoning case.

How Do I Make a Food Poisoning Claim?

Personal Injury Lawyer Sal Zambri A food poisoning case falls into the category of product liability. To prove your case, you’ll have to show that a specific dining experience or food purchase made you sick. Because it usually takes time for contaminated food to make you sick, food poisoning cases can be hard to win. However, if you make a trip to the emergency room, are hospitalized, or suffer serious injury from your foodborne illness, your case may be easier to prove and a settlement offered.

If you believe you have a valid food poisoning claim, you should consult as soon as possible with a personal injury experienced in contaminated food claims. Each state has its statute of limitations that determines how long you have to file a claim (three years in Washington, DC, and Maryland, two years in Virginia), but with a food poisoning case, you’ll want to get the ball rolling as early as possible so that you can collect the medical proof required to link your illness and injury to the contaminated food you consumed.

Many food poisoning cases hinge on negligence—the legal idea that the provider had a duty of care to behave in a certain way, the duty was breached, the breach caused food poisoning, and you were a victim of the food poisoning. Negligence is the root of many cases, such as improper food preparation or storage and failure to stop serving recalled foods.

Why Should I Hire a Food Poisoning Lawyer?

If you believe your situation is serious enough to pursue a food poisoning claim, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced food poisoning lawyer. Your lawyer will know how to work with you and with medical professionals to prove that contaminated food made you sick.

When you hold the liable party accountable, you can recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other economic and non-economic damages. Your best chance for a successful claim will come from working with an experienced lawyer from Regan Zambri Long.

Let Regan Zambri Long’s Food Poisoning Lawyers Handle Your Case

PartnerSal Zambri seated at deskWhen food poisoning strikes, the consequences can be serious. Whether you’ve lost wages due to an illness, accrued medical bills, or suffered a traumatic loss because of a foodborne illness, you deserve both financial compensation and the justice of holding the liable party accountable.

Regan Zambri Long’s experienced personal injury attorneys have handled contaminated food cases in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, and we are ready to take on your claim. Product liability claims can be challenging, and food poisoning can be hard to prove, but our lawyers will investigate your case to prove negligence on behalf of the restaurant, cafeteria, or business that sold you contaminated food.

Our law firm has represented clients who suffered various illnesses related to food contamination, including listeriosis and salmonella. We will do our utmost to track your illness back to the source and bring a suit against the liable party.

Our lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we don’t collect any legal fees until we’ve made a recovery or settlement in your favor. If you or your loved one have suffered a serious illness from food poisoning, schedule your free consultation with a Regan Zambri Long attorney today and begin the process of claiming the compensation you are due.

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