Food Poisoning from School Food: What Can I Do?

Cafeteria food has long been subject to many jokes— will you be having the mystery meat today?—but sometimes problems are bigger than a one-liner. Food that’s not stored or prepared properly, or that’s not fully cooked, can make people seriously sick and may even lead to long-lasting complications.

Food Poisoning

Food safety and preparation guidelines help us make sure we don’t eat something that could make us sick. While it’s usually easy enough to follow them in your own kitchen, sometimes commercial or other mass food prep operations make mistakes or cut corners that lead to unwanted bacteria in your food.

Whether your food poisoning originated at a restaurant or in a school cafeteria, keep a close eye on your symptoms. If you face significant medical difficulty due to poorly prepared food, you may be able to recover compensation from the at-fault party.

Symptoms of Foodborne Illness

Food poisoning is the most common type of foodborne illness and usually is resolved after a very unhappy day spent close to a bathroom. After it passes, we can usually return to work, school, or other daily routines unharmed. If you have food poisoning, you might experience:

  • Nausea, vomiting, inability to keep food down
  • Stomach or gut pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Feverishness and loss of strength/energy

Some unlucky or at-risk people, including pregnant women, young children, the elderly, or those with compromised immune systems, may suffer worse effects. You should seek medical help if you display the following symptoms:

  • Fever above 102
  • Inability to keep liquids down
  • Dehydration
  • Long-lasting (more than 24 hours) nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea that is bloody or lasts more the 3 days
  • Blurry vision, dizziness, or tingly feelings

Identifying the Foods at Fault

It can be difficult to determine just what you ate that made you so sick, especially as symptoms appear anywhere from a half-hour to a few weeks after eating. The onset depends on the type of bacteria causing your illness; staphylococcus, which may be found in uncooked foods, tends to kick in quickly; E. coli may wait a few days before making itself known; and listeria often doesn’t cause symptoms until one week or more after you’ve eaten the bad food.

Due to the variability of the time before you experience symptoms, you may have the best luck tracking down the culprit by speaking to others who you know have eaten some of the same meals, or who have also contracted food poisoning. Together, you may be able to identify a common meal that’s linked to multiple peoples’ illness.

Showing Negligence in Food Safety Practices

Sometimes food poisoning begins with a supplier whose hygiene or packaging methods don’t meet standards. In that case, you might find it hard to hold the food preparers liable; if they believed they were working with safe food and followed all recommended practices, they aren’t at fault. In this case, you’re more likely to find justice by approaching the product provider.

If, however, you can prove that unsafe practices in the kitchen led to your food poisoning, you may be able to request compensation for your losses. Dangerous practices include:

  • Failing to wash your hands before you begin cooking
  • Thawing food on a countertop rather than in a refrigerator
  • Storing raw meats in close quarters with other foods that may not be cooked
  • Failing to cook or reheat meats to safe temperatures
  • Using expired foods
  • Eating undercooked or unpasteurized foods

Demonstrating Financial Burden

Before you decide to seek damages, make sure you have a strong case for them. That doesn’t just mean proof that you got sick because of the food you ate…it means showing that foodborne illness caused expenses or other losses that had a severe impact. Having to skip one day of work probably won’t matter much to a judge, but if you find yourself sick for an entire week or having to take a trip to the emergency room, the costs from lost wages and medical bills can add up quickly.

If you’re thinking of going to court after a bad case of food poisoning, don’t wait too long. It’s difficult to prove your case without any evidence, and food preparers are likely to shift blame if they can. Your best bet may be joining a class-action lawsuit along with others who became ill after eating bad food.

Contact us at (419) 318-0772 or reach out online to schedule your free consultation.

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