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Pizza Hut Food Poisoning Lawsuit Grows

Jul 28, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

The Associated Press is breaking with news that a group of people is suing the company that owns a Pizza Hut restaurant in Greenwood, Mississippi for $1.1 million. The suit now includes 15 people who are members of the same congregation and who allege they fell ill after consuming chicken at the Greenwood Pizza Hut, said the AP.

NPC International Inc., located in Kansas, is named as the sole defendant; Pizza Hut is not named, said the AP. NPC is, said the AP, the nation’s largest Pizza Hut franchisee, comprised of hundreds of Pizza Hut restaurants nationwide, citing the Web site.

The lawsuit involved two plaintiffs at its original filing earlier this year; the revised lawsuit alleges “the restaurant failed to exercise reasonable care in preparing and storing food and did not properly train employees,” said the AP. All the plaintiffs are members of the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church of Itta Bena, said the AP, and all 15 claim to have eaten chicken at the Pizza Hut and that the chicken sickened them.

After dining at the Pizza Hut in Greenwood on January 18, 19 people had to be taken to the hospital for treatment and complained of symptoms that sound like food poisoning, such as vomiting and nausea, said the AP. The 19 were taken to the hospital within an hour of eating and were treated and released, the AP reported.

Analysis conducted by the Mississippi Department of Health did not indicate what caused the illnesses, but noted it discovered raw chicken at “inappropriate temperatures,” said the AP. The AP noted that, according to the Department of Health, when bacteria is found in raw chicken, illness does not typically come on so swiftly.

Any number of food borne pathogens could be to blame. For instance, an indicator of fecal contamination, E. coli may cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death.  Symptoms include stomach cramps and watery diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days.  E. coli generally taints meat through improper butchering and processing practices and, once released in the body, produces the shiga-producing toxins that have been linked to kidney damage in young children, and can also lead to kidney failure and death. E. coli infection can be transmitted through poor hygiene or hand-washing habits when bacteria in diarrheal stools are involved.

Salmonella can cause serious, sometimes fatal Salmonellosis infections in young children; weak or elderly people; and those with weakened immune systems. Healthy people may experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, if infected. Without treatment, severe cases can result in arterial infections—such as infected aneurysms—endocarditis, arthritis, and death; however, some Salmonella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics.

Listeriosis, the food poisoning generated by Listeria monocytogenes, is particularly dangerous to the elderly, pregnant women, newborns, those with chronic medical conditions, people with HIV, or those undergoing chemotherapy. In serious cases, the disease spreads to the nervous system, causing headaches, stiff neck, and convulsions and can cause meningitis and blood poisoning in immune-compromised individuals.

Norovirus, a group of viruses that cause gastroenteritis are not helped with antibiotics.  People become infected by eating food or drinking liquids contaminated with norovirus; touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth; and having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms. People may feel very sick and vomit many times a day. Sometimes people are unable to drink enough liquids to replenish the liquids lost due to vomiting and diarrhea and can become dehydrated and require special medical attention.

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