Food Poisoning at School
Most children will come down with food poisoning at least once. It’s a relatively common problem, and will often not result in serious injury. Food poisoning from a school meal, however, is cause for alarm. Schools have a duty to provide safe and nutritious food to students. If an employee of the cafeteria, cafeteria manager, or person in charge of food supply made a mistake that resulted in your child’s food poisoning case and serious illness, you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.
Causes of Food Poisoning at School
Children are more prone to food poisoning than adults due to weaker immune systems. Food poisoning occurs due to bacteria or viruses contaminating food. Once ingested, the bacteria can continue to grow in the digestive tract, causing infection. There are several common bacteria responsible for food poisoning cases, including salmonella, listeria, and E. coli. Salmonella can stem from undercooked poultry or raw eggs. Listeria can come from unpasteurized milk and byproducts. A child may get E.coli from undercooked beef or water that has a contamination.
Food poisoning at school can have many causes. Management may not have properly stored or refrigerated meat or dairy, leading to spoiling of the food served to students. A chef may have undercooked the ingredients, making it unsafe for consumption. The manufacturer of the food may have shipped out the product already infected with bacteria. Any number of factors could lead to food poisoning in students. It is important for parents to pay close attention to an illness to properly diagnose food poisoning and get to the bottom of its cause.
Who Is Liable?
In a food poisoning situation, parents should first try to pinpoint the food that caused the illness. Track the timeline of when your child’s symptoms first began and try to narrow down which food is the culprit. It can be difficult to diagnose food poisoning, as the symptoms often resemble the flu. Symptoms can also start anywhere from 30 minutes to three weeks after eating the contaminated food. Children with food poisoning may have vomiting, nausea, fever, or diarrhea.
Ask other parents at the school if their children have similar symptoms. This can be a red flag for a cafeteria lunch with harmful bacteria or viruses. If multiple children at the school suffer the same health affects, it is easier to associate the harm with food served at the school. Take your child to a healthcare provider and explain his or her symptoms. A lab test may be able to determine what bacteria caused the illness, and whether this bacteria is in a certain type of contaminated food.
If you can ascertain what food caused the illness, the next step is to assign fault. Examine everyone that came into contact with the food, from the time of its creation to when your child consumed it. People involved may include the product manufacturer or distributor, company in charge of transporting the food, workers who unloaded the food at the cafeteria, the chef that prepared the food, or the cafeteria workers that distributed the food to students.
Talk to an Attorney
The type of bacteria can help you pinpoint potential defendant(s). For example, E. coli food poisoning typically comes from undercooked beef. In this case, the person in charge of cooking the beef to the proper temperature may be liable for your child’s illness. An attorney can investigate your case and help you determine the defendant(s).
There are many food safety laws in place to prevent issues like school food poisoning. Breaking these laws, resulting in a child’s illness, is negligence. Talk to an attorney about pursuing compensation for your child’s medical bills, pain and suffering, your lost wages, and other losses. School food poisoning cases can cause serious illness, and deserve legal attention.