Food poisoning can cause severe and even life-threatening illness. Anyone can get food poisoning but people in high-risk groups are more likely to get sick. Young children, pregnant women, elderly adults, and people with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to serious complications. During National Food Safety Education Month this September, our legal team shares what you need to know about food safety to help protect your family. Pritzker Hageman attorney Ray Trueblood-Konz talks about what you should do if you think you have food poisoning, in addition to emphasizing how important it is for food companies to invest more resources in food safety.
In your opinion, what are the top 5 riskiest foods to eat?
It’s anecdotal, but given recent and historic outbreaks, romaine lettuce, raw oysters, ice cream, chicken, and onions seem particularly risky. However, no food is completely safe if it isn’t safely prepared or handled.
How Do You Get Food Poisoning From Ice Cream?
Ice cream and other frozen foods are at risk for contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, a harmful foodborne pathogen that can cause serious illness. Listeria can contaminate ice cream through cross-contamination, poor sanitation practices, contaminated ingredients, and improper storage. Once Listeria contaminates ice cream, the bacteria can grow and multiply at low temperatures, even surviving freezing.
The Pritzker Hageman food safety legal team is currently investigating two Listeria outbreaks linked to ice cream:
- Listeria outbreak linked to “Soft Serve on the Go” ice cream cups made at the Ice Cream House in Brooklyn, NY
- Listeria outbreak at Frugals restaurant in Tacoma, WA
Why is food safety so important?
Food is fundamental to our existence. We can stay off the roads to mitigate the risk of a commercial vehicle accident or watch the ground to mitigate the risk of a slip-and-fall. But we can’t see microscopic pathogens within the food we eat. The only way to avoid life-changing injuries or death from foodborne pathogens is to practice effective food safety.
Companies and regulators need to stay vigilant and ensure food preparation is sanitary, especially when everything seems fine.Attorney Ray Trueblood-Konz
What do you think food companies and federal regulatory agencies need to do to make our food supply safer?
The industry needs to resist complacency and devote more resources to food safety. It’s not enough that a company has not yet had a food poisoning outbreak. It’s not enough to make food mostly safe. Companies and regulators need to stay vigilant and ensure food preparation is sanitary, especially when everything seems fine. Because problems are most likely to slip through the cracks when food safety professionals let their guard down.
What’s something about food safety that’s not common knowledge and should be?
Many of us do not realize how devastating foodborne illnesses can be. The cases we handle involve injuries far more severe than a 24-hour bug. Many of us do not realize that adulterated food can kill you or render you or your loved ones completely and permanently helpless.
What motivated you to become a food safety lawyer?
When I learned how devastating foodborne illness injuries can be, I knew I had to do something. I have been involved in high-profile product liability cases and have litigated cases against well-known manufacturers. But when I learned that foodborne pathogens could injure people just as badly as a defective seatbelt or airbag, I knew I had to help.
What foodborne illness recoveries are you most proud of?
I am proudest of the outbreaks we solved without a company recall or press releases announcing that a company had sold tainted food.
What can the general public do to advocate for food safety?
Spread the word. Make sure your friends and family understand the importance of sanitation and proper cooking methods. Make sure they know to watch out for food recalls. Make sure they get immediate medical attention if they have symptoms of a foodborne illness and make sure they press their medical providers to take a stool sample or otherwise test for foodborne pathogens, including less common pathogens like Cyclospora.