It can be such a luxury to enjoy a delicious meal at a Michigan restaurant. Unfortunately, some establishments fail to source safe products or properly sanitize their facilities. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that foodborne illness is responsible for 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths per year.

If you became ill after eating at a restaurant, you may have legal recourse. An experienced Michigan food poisoning lawyer could help you pursue fair compensation for the full extent of your losses. Consult with a poison injury attorney to see if you have grounds for a lawsuit.

Restaurant Owners’ Duty of Care

Restaurant owners have a legal obligation to maintain a hygienic facility and keep patrons safe. To help prevent food poisoning, the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) has established strict regulations designed to prevent contamination.

Contamination usually arises from improper handling, preparation, or food storage. Good hygiene practices before, during, and after food preparation can reduce the chances of contracting an illness. Restaurants are inspected by the local health department to make sure they are clean and have adequate kitchen facilities.

Obligations Under the Michigan Food Code

Michigan Food Code §§2-301.11 through 2-301.16 provide specific requirements for restaurant owners and other food service providers on hand washing, antiseptics, and times when food handlers must sanitize their hands and wrists. Food Code §3-301.12 offers guidelines for avoiding food contamination when tasting a dish. Additional statutes address utensils, equipment, and vending, and food temperature measurement tools. A lawyer with experience handling poisoning cases may be familiar with other regulations that apply to individual situations.

One particularly relevant regulation is §3-402.12, which requires that restaurants record the freezing temperature of fish and the length of time the fish remain frozen, as well as maintain the log for 90 days. Other regulations require restaurants to mark commercially processed food items upon opening and prohibit using them after the manufacturer’s recommended date.

These regulations exist to prevent contaminated food from poisoning patrons. When restaurant owners or staff fail to follow their obligations under the law, their actions may constitute negligence and provide grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. A Michigan food poisoning attorney could fully investigate the cause of a victim’s illness and identify all responsible parties.

Common Types of Food Poisoning at Michigan Restaurants

The most commonly recognized food poisoning cases are those caused by Salmonella, Campylobacter, Botulism, E. coli, and norovirus.

Salmonella

Salmonella food poisoning occurs when the small intestine becomes infected with bacteria that contaminates unsanitary food and water. Common causes of salmonella include:

  • Eating improperly stored food, especially meat, eggs, and poultry that have not been refrigerated
  • Associating with family members or friends who have been infected
  • Eating food from a day-care center, nursing home, camp, or restaurant that has been contaminated with salmonella
  • Keeping an iguana, turtle, snake, lizard, or another reptile as a pet

Symptoms generally last for about 2-5 days, and most people recover without medical treatment. It is important to realize, however, that a significant number of people face Salmonella poisoning with weakened immune systems, and this may complicate the healing process. Additionally, prolonged diarrhea and vomiting risk causing severe dehydration, which can be a very serious health threat, especially for young children, the elderly, and people who are or recently have been sick.

Reporting your illness directly to your health department helps to identify outbreaks and prevent others from becoming sick. Persons suffering from food poisoning can also assert their legal rights against the restaurant or seller of food by speaking with a knowledgeable Michigan lawyer.

Campylobacter

Campylobacter food poisoning is an infection of the small intestine caused by the bacteria Campylobacter jejuni. An infection can be caused by:

  • Undercooked or improperly prepared food, especially raw or undercooked poultry, fresh produce, or unpasteurized milk
  • Family members or friends who have recently been infected
  • Travel in an unsanitary area

Although most people recover in about one week and do not require medical treatment, several complications can make an individual case of Campylobacter food poisoning more severe. Immunosuppressed individuals infected with Campylobacter may become more vulnerable to other infections, such as meningitis, sepsis, endocarditis, and thrombophlebitis. Some patients may develop a form of arthritis.

A very small percentage of people may become temporarily or, even more rarely, permanently paralyzed from Campylobacter food poisoning. Because of this, anyone who may be suffering from Campylobacter food poisoning should seek medical attention.

Botulism

Botulism is an infection of the small intestine caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Bacteria can enter the body through cuts and wounds or by ingesting improperly canned, preserved, or packaged food. Common sources of botulism poisoning include home-canned vegetables, cured pork and ham, smoked or raw fish, and honey or corn syrup. Botulism symptoms include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Weak breathing, which may eventually lead to breathing failure and death
  • Difficulty swallowing and speaking
  • Double vision
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation

Symptoms usually appear 2-4 days after infection occurs and last about one week. Botulism presents a serious health threat and can be fatal if left untreated. Like other forms of food poisoning, botulism is particularly dangerous for young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. Prompt medical treatment can greatly decrease the danger of long-term and permanent damage.

Anyone who may be suffering from Botulism food poisoning should seek medical attention immediately. Reporting your illness, either through ReportFoodPoisoning.com, or directly to your health department, allows your health department to identify outbreaks and prevent others from becoming sick.

E. Coli

E. coli (Escherichia coli) is a type of bacteria that lives in the digestive tracts of humans and animals. Most varieties are harmless, but some can cause severe illness. Most E. coli infections in the United States come from meat that becomes contaminated during the processing stage. If the infected meat is not cooked at the necessary temperature of 160°F (71°C), the bacteria can survive. A person eating the food can become infected. Additionally, other food that comes into contact with infected meat can also become contaminated with E. coli. Other common sources of E. coli include:

  • Raw milk or dairy products that are not pasteurized, or heated, to destroy bacteria.
  • Raw fruits and vegetables, such as lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, unpasteurized apple cider, or other unpasteurized juices that have come in contact with infected animal feces.

Symptoms of E. coli can include abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea. Some of the most serious infections are caused by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). A strain called O157:H7 may cause severe anemia or kidney failure, and other strains can cause urinary tract infections. The CDC estimates that 265,000 STEC infections occur each year in the United States, of which E. coli O157:H7 accounts for over 36%.

In certain people, especially the elderly, the damage to the kidneys can shut down renal function completely or cause other organs to fail. In serious cases, this can lead to death. Prompt medical attention and treatment is essential for avoiding permanent injury or death.

Because E. coli infections often require hospitalization and expensive medical care, the damages in these food poisoning cases can be extensive. A knowledgeable food poisoning attorney in Michigan could help victims identify the full extent of their damages and pursue fair payment.

Norovirus and Other Calicivirus-Family Infections

The Michigan lawyers at Buckfire & Buckfire PC frequently handle food poisoning cases involving Norovirus (also known as Norwalk virus). Norovirus belongs to the calicivirus family and is most commonly known as a short-term “stomach flu.”

Common Norovirus symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramping
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle ache

In addition, persistent vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration, which itself can present a very serious health threat. Like other forms of food poisoning, Norovirus cases are usually most severe in young children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.

Norovirus infections usually clear up within 1 – 3 days. However, it is important to note that Norovirus is highly contagious. Infected people can remain contagious for up to two full weeks after their symptoms disappear.  Anyone who may be infected with Norovirus should drink plenty of fluids and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Reporting an illness directly to your health department could help identify outbreaks and prevent others from becoming sick. Persons suffering from E. coli food poisoning can also pursue their legal rights to compensation with help from a Michigan lawyer.

Reach Out to a Michigan Food Poisoning Attorney for Help

No matter the circumstances, it may be important to speak with a Michigan food poisoning attorney if you have contracted an illness from a meal. When untreated, diseases such as E. coli and salmonella may lead to severe injuries and conditions, as well as missed time from work, and other loses.

Understanding your legal rights and whether or not you can file a claim for compensation for your damages is often nuanced, meaning the aid of a knowledgeable attorney might prove to be essential. Call Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. today.

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