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Salmonella Contamination from Infected Sushi: A Follow-Up Report

Earlier this month, our Chicago personal injury lawyers expressed concern about a growing outbreak of salmonella poisoning that appears to be linked to sushi. At the time our attorneys first considered the epidemic, a few cases had been reported; however, according to a recent report by MSNBC, the tally now extends to more than 140 people across 20 states.

Following this pandemic of contaminated seafood, the first lawsuit has been filed against Moon Marine U.S.A. Corporation, the seafood importer charged with distributing infected fish meat to seafood retailers across the nation.

The lawsuit alleges that two women contracted salmonella poisoning when they each dined separately at a local restaurant that served sushi containing tuna distributed by Moon Marine. After eating the infected fish, each had to be hospitalized and spent almost nine weeks recovering from the contamination during which time the women experienced extreme pain, colon ulcers, bloody diarrhea, and other symptoms as a result of the contamination, as well as having to miss significant amounts of work.

Salmonella is a form of bacteria generally found in cold- and warm-blooded animals. Infections usually arise following consumption of foods contaminated with the bacteria. Although all persons are at risk for developing salmonella poisoning, infants, the elderly, and adults with compromised or weakened immune systems are more susceptible to infection.

Salmonella contamination can arise from a number of sources, but commonly comes from such sources as infected food, poor kitchen hygiene, bodily fluids from sick individuals, and polluted water. Here, the contagion infected frozen ‘backmeat’ that was shaved from fish bones and sold by Moon Marine to restaurants and stores across the country. It is estimated that the salmonella bacteria wound up in nearly 60,000 pounds of raw yellowfin tuna meat; to date, hundreds of salmonella infections linked to Moon Marine fish have arisen during the past two months.

According to MSNBC, more than 2,500 forms of salmonella are known to exist, but in this particular epidemic, all 141 victims were infected with an extremely rare form called salmonella bareilly, which was an enormous factor in linking the disease back to the Moon Marine fish. Health officials interviewed most of the infected persons to ask what they ate the week before getting sick. Of those, more than 80 percent recalled eating sushi at restaurants that served fish obtained from Moon Marine.

Corporations that produce and distribute food owe a duty of care to their customers; manufacturers of all types of consumer goods are responsible for ensuring that the products they distribute to the public are safe for human use, but this is especially true when companies disseminate food. When an individual falls ill because of a contaminated food product, the company responsible for causing that illness may be made to pay to compensate the consumer. Damages in an Illinois personal injury lawsuit, such as one that may arise in this case, might include such things as hospital and medical bills, as well as money lost from an inability to work.

In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report estimating that each year roughly 48 million people are sickened by a foodborne illness. Of those, 125,000 require hospitalization and 3,000 die after consuming contaminated foods purchased from retail stores or restaurants. In this particular situation, even though the responsible party has been identified, the danger may not yet have passed: “The problem is this [Moon Marine] product got repackaged and resold. There are sushi restaurants that may not even know they’re serving this tuna; they may not even know it’s been recalled. Also, it comes as a frozen product so it sits on the shelves for as long as six months,” reports MSNBC.

Victims of foodborne illnesses who suffer serious personal injury, hospitalization, or death may be able to seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages, if a manufacturer or distributer is responsible for the failure to contain the infection. Our Illinois personal injury attorneys have extensive experience handling Illinois food poisoning cases, including a $4 million settlement for three convention attendees who contracted salmonella poisoning that caused them to suffer crippling arthritic injuries.

If you or a loved one have suffered from a foodborne illness, seek immediate medical attention. A doctor will be able to diagnose if you have been infected with salmonella poisoning. Additionally, an attorney may be able to apprise you of your rights under the law.