Food Borne Illness Lawsuits Growing in Minnesota and Elsewhere


Food borne illnesses are a common, and usually minor, problem. Mishandled food, under-cooked food, unsanitary conditions, and negligence can expose the consumer to a range of dangerous microorganisms like E. coli and salmonella. Exposure to these disease-causing agents results in hospitalizations and some lawsuits every year in Minnesota. Some of the cases are strictly local. Other cases are the result of big regional and national cases of contamination and have resulted in recalls or E. coli lawsuits.

Causes of Food Poisoning:

Food poisoning can stem from a range of toxins produced by microbes like E. coli. Cases of serious food-borne illnesses are rare in Minnesota, though many residents experience some symptoms each year, things like nausea and diarrhea tend to clear up on their own.

Some food-borne illnesses lead to hospitalization and life threatening health problems. Botulism, which can be caused by contaminated food, is a well-known example of a deadly infection. Rarely, E. coli infections can cause a form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This is usually or always a result of exposure to STEC bacteria in contaminated food.

Minnesota Food Borne Illness Statistics

However, a thousand or more Minnesotans report serious food-borne illness every year. The Minnesota Department of Health tracks those reports on an annual basis. For example, in 2015 the Minnesota Department of Health recording the following illnesses:

  • 975 cases of salmonellosis, the illness caused by several strains of salmonella bacteria
  • 225 E. coli cases, including 125 of illness linked to Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, which is particularly dangerous
  • One case of botulism, in a ten-month-old boy

Many of those illnesses were isolated cases caused by bad food or ingredients in a home or at one restaurant. However, hundreds of those illnesses were linked to regional and national outbreaks of diseases caused by contaminated food ingredients, and produce.

Causes of Food Poisoning:

No matter the precautions, anyone can be a victim of a mild food-borne illness. Some people in Minnesota become ill every year because of bad luck or poor decisions. Many others get sick because of poor food handling or unsanitary conditions at a business. Disease outbreaks connected with bad eggs, meat, and dairy products sometimes start with poor cooking or mishandling, where a worker spreads contaminated fluids or bits of food around.

Most cases produce mild, temporary symptoms including the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramps

While most people recover from food poisoning on their own in a few days, some cases turn serious and require medical attention. Symptoms like a high fever, blood in stools or vomit, blurry vision, and severe dehydration require medical attention.

The discomfort, health problems, and medical costs associated with serious cases of food poisoning have led individuals to file a number of lawsuits against restaurants and food companies, alleging negligence. A regional outbreak of E. coli-related illness connected to fast casual Mexican food chain Chipotle is an example.

Food Poisoning Case Against Chipotle:

The 2015 outbreak of e.coli infections associated with Chipotle restaurants was the most recent prominent case to spur Food Borne Illness Lawsuits. Since then, there has been a substantial amount of litigation that resulted in a relatively quick settlement by the company.

One of the higher profile cases of food poisoning in the news, the nationwide lawsuit against the Chipotle restaurant chain involves Minnesota. On September 9, Chipotle settled over 100 lawsuits originating in several states. The other individual lawsuits were filed in Washington, New York, Oregon, Ohio, and Illinois.

Produce and cooking ingredients like flour also cause outbreaks of salmonella and other food-borne illnesses.

General Mills Flour:

An E. coli outbreak nationwide sickened hundreds of people. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 38 cases in 20 states, including three cases in Minnesota. This was in early 2016. Since then the total number of cases has risen to 46, in 21 states.

The outbreak occurred from December 2015 to May 2016. When interviewed, 76% of the ill people reported eating the raw dough, handling it, or that someone in their household used the flour in the preceding week.

In May, General Mills recalled several varieties and sizes of flour including Gold Medal Flour, Gold Medal Wonder Flour, and Signature Kitchen Flour. General Mills recommends that consumers, restaurants, and retailers should stop using those flours immediately.

State, local, and national health officials worked together to trace this outbreak back to flour produced at a General Mills facility in Kansas City, MO. The investigation found that all of the illnesses were linked to a single batch of flour produced in November of 2015. The company has since recalled 45 million pounds of flour.

Restaurants, prepared foods, and produce all can become contaminated and sicken consumers.

Jack & The Green Sprout:

In February and March of 2016 11 people in Wisconsin and Minnesota contracted illnesses caused by a rare strain of E. coli bacteria. An investigation by local, state, and government officials traced the 8 Minnesota cases and the 3 Wisconsin cases to alfalfa sprouts sold by Jack & The Green Sprout of River Falls, Wisconsin. Nationwide, two of those individuals were hospitalized, but no one developed HUS.

In February 2016 the company recalled all of their alfalfa and alfalfa onion sprouts. No one has filed suit against the company as of August 2016. Cases like this, and the outbreaks linked to Chipotle and General Mills have prompted many law firms to begin taking food poisoning cases.

Discuss Your Case with Us:

If you were injured at a restaurant or another business and suspect that negligence was a factor, you may be entitled to financial compensation for pain, suffering, medical bills, and other expenses. You are welcome to contact us for a free, no-obligation review of your case.