IDPH Investigating Increase in Foodborne Illnesses
Fast-food giant McDonald’s famous Big Mac sandwich is celebrating 50 years on the menu this year, but in the decades since the iconic burger was first unveiled the hamburger chain has branched out and experimented with other food and fare. This has included salads, which offer health-conscious or meat-averse diners an alternative meal. Within the past several months, however, patrons of McDonald’s across the nation have become ill after eating at restaurants. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced in July 2018 that its offices are investigating almost 100 reports of cyclosporiasis. While the IDPH is looking into several potential sources for this outbreak, McDonald’s salads are thought to be the main culprit.
Information About Cyclosporiasis
Cyclosporiasis is a parasitic infection brought on by ingesting food and/or water contaminated by feces carrying the parasite cyclospora. The parasite cannot be transmitted from person to person or through any other means other than consumption of contaminated food or drink (in other words, a person will not develop cyclosporiasis simply by caring for someone affected by the illness). Once infected, a person will typically develop symptoms of cyclosporiasis within a few days to a week. Symptoms of infection include extremely loose and watery stools, stomach discomfort (including nausea, loss of appetite, bloating, and/or cramping), and fever. Antibiotics are available to treat the infection and help alleviate these symptoms; without treatment, these symptoms can persist up to a month (in some extreme cases).
McDonald’s Salads Linked to Cyclosporiasis Cases
In Illinois and elsewhere, customers who have purchased and consumed McDonald’s salads have later become ill and developed symptoms of cyclosporiasis (or have been determined to have contracted the infection). As a result, McDonald’s has recalled its salad products and is replacing these products with salads that contain ingredients sourced from alternative locations. Not only this, but McDonald’s is cooperating with IDPH and other state and federal agencies in investigating the cause of the contamination of its products.
Injuries and Losses Attributable to Cyclosporiasis
Although no deaths have been reported as a result of contaminated McDonald’s salads, numerous individuals have become seriously ill. Individuals who do become sick after eating a contaminated McDonald’s salad can find themselves needing medical treatment and/or prescription antibiotics in order to manage the symptoms of cyclosporiasis. In addition, depending on the severity of the person’s symptoms, the individual may need to miss several days of work in order to recover from the illness. In some extreme cases, individuals have required several weeks in order to fully recover and be able to resume their normal daily activities. These losses are in addition to the mental pain, anguish, and suffering that can accompany cyclosporiasis. Put differently, the financial cost of a cyclosporiasis infection can far exceed the few dollars’ cost of the salad that caused the infection.
While IDPH’s activities may help shed light on how McDonald’s salad products became contaminated with cyclospora in the first place, their investigative actions can do little to alleviate the financial harm that some individuals in Illinois and elsewhere may be feeling as a result of their cyclosporiasis diagnosis. Instead, these people may find it necessary to turn to the legal system in order to obtain assistance in addressing the damage suffered by their diagnosis.
Cyclosporiasis Injury Lawsuits Can Provide Monetary Damages
Those who choose to grow, raise, distribute, prepare, and/or serve food in the United States have taken a weighty burden upon themselves. Because many consumers do not possess the knowledge, time, or resources available to check the quality and safety of their food at every stage of the production and preparation process, the law puts the burden on the food production and food service companies to ensure that good is safe to consume and free from parasites and harmful bacteria. A company can find themselves under a court order to pay injured consumers’ expenses if:
- The company failed to follow regulations or best practices in the manner in which the company handled its food product. Fast-food workers must comply with health and safety regulations concerning handwashing and the temperature to which meat, eggs, and other items must be cooked. Similarly, there are regulations concerning how plants and animals must be raised if they are to be consumed later as food. These regulations or policy suggestions are published and (in some cases) enforced because scientists, policymakers, and others have determined that they help safeguard food against contamination. A willful disregard of these regulations and practices, or even a careless oversight, can jeopardize the health of millions and subject the company to legal liability.
- The company fails to conduct adequate quality control checks designed to detect potential contamination before the food product reaches the consumer. For example, it is common for food producers to randomly sample the quality of a batch of food product throughout each production cycle. Companies that fail to do this – or who do not do an adequate job – can also be held legally responsible if consumers fall ill and such illnesses could have been avoided through more thorough quality control measures.
- The company fails to take prompt action when notified of a potential problem with its food product. McDonald’s appears to have done the right thing in recalling its salads, but further investigation by IDPH and others may reveal that McDonald’s knew about possible contamination of its salads before individuals began getting sick and did nothing. Or it may be concluded that McDonald’s recall efforts were not strong and comprehensive enough so as to alert potential consumers and appropriately limit the number of future cases of contamination.
- A branch or franchise continues to sell contaminated food. A food distributor and restaurant such as McDonald’s must ensure that restaurant locations discontinue the sale of the contaminated product. Companies cannot usually simply provide a “corporate update” but must instead attempt to promptly notify affected restaurants about the dangerous product and what they must do to protect consumers. This is a time- and resource-intensive task but it is critical to complete in order to prevent others from becoming sick from contaminated product.
These are but a few of the ways in which a food producer, server, and/or distributor can become legally responsible for the financial costs suffered by ill consumers. It takes a resourceful and dedicated attorney to investigate whether McDonald’s took reasonable and appropriate steps before, during, and after the outbreak of cyclosporiasis. Even a mega-company like McDonald’s does not have the resources or knowledge to prevent all incidents of contamination, but these companies must do what is within their power to protect consumers from preventable outbreaks.
Trust Parker Waichman LLP to Provide Experienced, Compassionate Representation
Going up against a company like McDonald’s or other food distributors in court is no small feat, but even these businesses are not above the law. At Parker Waichman LLP, our McDonald’s Salad Cyclosporiasis lawsuit lawyers have considerable experience in successfully representing injury victims and victims of dangerous or contaminated food products against some of the largest companies in the country.
Our McDonald’s salad Cyclosporiasis lawsuit attorneys will fight aggressively for your right to receive full and fair compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering after a bout with cyclosporiasis.
Contact your Cyclosporiasis poisoning attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP today by calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
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