Illinois Attorney Says Recent Salmonella Outbreaks Show Need for Food Safety Improvements

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Federal, state and local officials need to adopt a system that would address foodborne illness outbreaks before they occur instead of merely reacting to them, attorney Patrick A. Salvi says.

Every year, too many people become ill or die from foodborne illnesses, such as salmonella, in outbreaks that were ultimately preventable.

Two recent salmonella poisoning outbreaks highlight the need for federal, state and local officials to update their approach to protecting consumers from foodborne illnesses, a Chicago personal injury attorney says.

“Under the current system, officials react to outbreaks after they have already started. What we need is a system that addresses risks head on and prevents outbreaks from occurring in the first place,” says Patrick A. Salvi, managing equity partner of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., a leading Illinois personal injury law firm with offices in Chicago and Waukegan.

“A recent report by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council proposes ways to make such a system a reality, and I think health officials should give it serious consideration,” Salvi says.

In the 500-page IOM report, requested by Congress 18 months ago after a string of foodborne illness outbreaks, the IOM recommended that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration increase coordination with other agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state and local health departments.

The report called for setting up a centralized food safety data center that would collect information, identify risks and quickly move to address problems. It also proposed delegating food facility inspections to states, with the FDA establishing national standards for the intensity and frequency of those reviews.

“Every year, too many people become ill or die from foodborne illnesses, such as salmonella, in outbreaks that were ultimately preventable,” Salvi says. “The IOM report is useful because it shows how health officials can shift their focus to prevention instead of reaction.”

Salmonella is a type of bacteria that causes gastrointestinal illness. The contamination often comes from food that isn’t properly cleaned and prepared or is handled by a worker or employee who failed to properly wash his or her hands.

Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. An infection can spread from the intestines to the blood stream and cause death.

The salmonella outbreaks that have recently garnered attention in Illinois started in May.

In one case, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 90 cases of salmonella poisoning linked to Subway restaurants in 28 counties. As a result of the outbreak, 25 people needed hospitalization.

In another case, the Cook County Department of Public Health reported 45 cases of salmonella poisoning connected to the Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, with nine people requiring hospitalization, according to a report in the Wilmette Pioneer Local.

It’s unknown how many salmonella cases associated with either outbreak went unreported or untreated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 40,000 cases of salmonellosis reported in the U.S. each year, while the number of actual salmonella-related illnesses could be as much as 30 times greater than what is reported.

“If you believe you are a victim of any food poisoning, you should contact your health care provider or local health department right away,” Salvi says. “An attorney who reviews your case also may be able to help you recover for your pain and suffering as well as medical expenses and lost wages.”

About Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C.

Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. is a leading Illinois personal injury law firm with offices in Chicago and Waukegan. The firm focuses on medical malpractice, personal injury and wrongful death cases, including car and truck accidents, airplane and train accidents, construction injuries, faulty products, birth injuries, brain injuries, unsafe properties and animal attacks. The firm’s success in personal injury, accident and wrongful death cases includes more than 160 multi-million dollar verdicts or settlements. A number of these settlements and verdicts are among the largest of their kind in the state of Illinois. To learn more about Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., call (847) 249-1227 or use the firm’s online form.

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