According to the CDC, 48 million people suffer from food poisoning each year. Among them, 128,000 become so severely ill they require hospital care, and 3,000 die. During Food Safety Education Month this September, our team of food poisoning attorneys share what you need to know about food safety to help protect your family from dangerous foodborne pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella. To start, Pritzker Hageman Managing Partner Eric Hageman talks more about the risk of E. coli in undercooked frozen pizza, what food companies and regulatory agencies can do to help make our food supply safer, and more.
In your opinion, what are the top 5 riskiest foods to eat?
Leafy greens, ground beef, deli meats, and then two that depend on thorough cooking, chicken and frozen pizza.
Why is food safety so important?
It’s all about trust. Foodborne pathogens are invisible, so as consumers, we have no way of knowing if our food is contaminated and no way of ensuring we can stay protected. We all have a role to play a role in order to stay safe from foodborne pathogens, but food companies and food regulators are the ones we simply have to trust are doing their jobs since food safety in our own kitchens is the only thing that is fully in our control.
What do you think food companies and federal regulatory agencies need to do to make our food supply safer?
Food companies need to prioritize food safety. Let’s face it, doing everything possible to make food safe costs money, and food companies, like all businesses, are trying to make a profit. They need to know that if they make unsafe food they will be held financially accountable and realize that spending money on prevention is going to be a better investment than paying money to the people their food has sickened. Money is also a key issue when it comes to food regulatory agencies. We as a society need to commit to fully funding the agencies that help keep our food safe.
What’s something about food safety that’s not common knowledge and should be?
You can get sickened with E. coli food poisoning from frozen pizza.
I’ve always identified with the little guy fighting against the big guy and that definitely holds true when it comes to food safety work since we are almost always going up against big companies and their well-funded lawyers and experts.Attorney Eric Hageman
What motivated you to become a food safety lawyer?
Doing interesting and impactful work that makes a meaningful difference in people’s lives is what motivated me to become a lawyer in the first place. I’ve always identified with the little guy fighting against the big guy and that definitely holds true when it comes to food safety work since we are almost always going up against big companies and their well-funded lawyers and experts.
What is one change you have made after becoming a food safety lawyer?
Washing and thoroughly cooking my food!
What is one foodborne illness case that people ask you about the most?
In March of 2018, we obtained a verdict after a three-week federal court trial against Foster Poultry Farms, on behalf of a young boy who was sickened after eating chicken contaminated with Salmonella. As there was no proof of purchase in the case, it was the first trial verdict in the country against a food manufacturer based solely on epidemiological and microbiological evidence. More significantly, the case set a precedent as the first-ever trial verdict against a poultry producer for Salmonella contamination on chicken, which poultry companies have always argued was natural to raw chicken. The jury’s verdict was a rejection of the argument that poultry companies can produce contaminated product and then blame consumers who get sick from eating it.