Many of us remember the shocking stories that emerged in the late 1980’s during the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Great Britain. During the outbreak of BSE, more commonly known as “mad cow disease”, around 185,000 head of cattle were infected. The human toll was heart-breaking, with approximately 165 people contracting a human variant of the degenerative and ultimately fatal disease. Though most of those affected were limited to Great Britain, the tragedy inspired sweeping changes world-wide to the safety regulations for the care and processing of cattle. Thanks to these changes, outbreaks of the illness have been greatly reduced and confined. Recently, however, a case of mad cow disease was reported in the United States. It has, to date, been limited to a single cow, and stands little chance of causing a wider outbreak. However, this news is an unpleasant reminder that, despite a multitude of regulations, food-borne illnesses continue to be a serious threat to our safety. And sadly, too often this is a result of not just human error, but at times, even criminal negligence.
BSE is known colloquially as mad cow disease due to its degenerative effect on the brain and central nervous system. Affected animals often acted agitated and violent, leading to the term “mad cow.” Humans who ingest infected meat are similarly affected, with personality and cognitive changes, followed by muscular weakness and death. The epidemic of BSE is believed to have been caused when healthy cows were given feed made with meat and bone meal from infected animals. As a result, many countries outlawed the use of cattle meat or bone in cattle feed. With these and other restrictions, the disease’s spread was significantly diminished. If only other food-borne illnesses were so easily eradicated.
As rare as full outbreaks of “mad cow” are today, other food-borne illnesses continue to be common. While most are limited to small groups, larger state, country and even world-wide outbreaks are becoming more common. And, in fact, new strains have emerged which have proven to be deadlier, harder to control, and far more drug-resistant. Currently, the CDC estimates that of known foodborne pathogens, Salmonella, Toxoplasma, Norovirus, Listeria, Campylobacter, E. coli and Clostridium perfringens cause 90% of related illnesses, hospitalization and deaths. Salmonella is one of the most common – this year, 116 people in twenty states were sickened by salmonella-infected yellow fin tuna. In 2011, 146 people were sickened and 30 killed by Listeria-infected cantaloupes. An investigation by the FDA found that inappropriate cleaning and sanitizing of the cantaloupe grower’s packing facility was likely to blame. And while BSE in beef may seem frightening, E. coli infections from contaminated beef have wreaked far more havoc. Last year, a new variant of E. coli was brought to light when thousands were sickened and dozens killed by infected sprouts. This new variety of E. coli proved to be incredibly virulent and highly resistant to antibiotics.
Approximately 48 million Americans are sickened, 128,000 hospitalized and another 3,000 killed every year by food-borne illnesses. And sadly, the origin of illness can be difficult to pinpoint and even harder to eradicate entirely. However, further outbreaks can be limited through education, regulation and enforcement. Therefore, it’s vital that all suspected food-related illnesses are reported to a physician and the local health department. The reality is that while some are “lucky” to experience short-term discomfort, many of those affected face long-term health problems, as well as emotional and financial stress. Contact an Illinois personal injury attorney who can help you seek justice for your pain and loss.
About the Author: Brooke Haley is a Marketing Associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation lawyers that practice in the areas of Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts in the State of Illinois. For more information about Illinois workers compensation attorney,please visit www.millonpeskin.com.