When someone gets sick with food poisoning, symptoms commonly include diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, and fever. In some cases, foodborne illness can lead to severe complications, including hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), meningitis, reactive arthritis, and even death.
For Food Safety Education Month this September, our food poisoning attorneys are sharing what you need to know to help protect your family from the dangers of unsafe food. Pritzker Hageman attorney Alicia Penner talks about the need for more thorough outbreak investigations, the risks associated with reheated rice, and more.
In your opinion, what are the top 5 riskiest foods to eat?
Oysters, unpasteurized products, undercooked chicken, raw flour in cookie dough or batters, and romaine lettuce (unless it is grown in your own garden or greenhouse).
Food safety starts with proper handling and prep and includes cooking food to the right temperature, preventing cross-contamination, and storing foods at the right temperature.Attorney Alicia Penner
Why is food safety so important?
Food safety protects you from foodborne illnesses! Food poisoning affects millions of people around the world ranging from mild to fatal health consequences that can often be easily prevented. Food safety starts with proper handling and prep and includes cooking food to the right temperature, preventing cross-contamination, and storing foods at the right temperature.
What do you think food companies and federal regulatory agencies need to do to make our food supply safer?
More thorough outbreak investigations. Many foodborne illness outbreaks end and the investigations close without determining the source of the pathogens.
What’s something about food safety that’s not common knowledge and should be?
Re-heated rice may be a food poisoning risk if you leave it sitting at room temperature too long before storing it in the refrigerator. Leaving the rice sitting out can cause bacterial growth, and no amount of heating it up afterward can make it safe to consume.
How Does Reheated Rice Cause Food Poisoning?
Grain-based foods like rice, quinoa, and pasta can grow deadly Bacillus cereus bacteria if not stored properly after cooking or reheating. When Bacillus cereus bacteria multiply in food, they release toxins that can cause food poisoning known as “fried rice syndrome.” Eating food that contains these toxins can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and headaches. In severe cases, it can lead to dehydration, sepsis, and even death.
Health officials are investigating a possible Bacillus cereus outbreak at Kumo Sushi & Steakhouse in Stonybrook, New York. At least 28 people fell ill after eating at the restaurant on Saturday, September 9, 2023.
What motivated you to become a food safety lawyer?
I took a food law class while in law school at Mitchell Hamline where I gained an understanding of food law and regulations as it relates to the production, manufacture, and consumption of food. From there, I was hooked and wanted to practice in the area of foodborne illness cases.
What is one change you have made after becoming a food safety lawyer?
Every time I cook meat I use a thermometer to check the internal temperature. I also throw my leftovers away much sooner than I used to and store my rice/pasta before it’s been at room temperature for too long.
What is one foodborne illness case that people ask you about the most?
The 2020 Cyclospora outbreak linked to bagged salads. We represented 43 claimants who fell ill from a salad product including a wrongful death claim and our team was able to compensate each and every one of them.
What can the general public do to advocate for food safety?
Encourage others to take food prep seriously in their own kitchen. Using a meat thermometer, special cutting boards for meat vs. produce, and washing your hands often will go a long way in preventing cross-contamination and the possibility of foodborne illness.