Albany Personal Injury Attorneys Explain the Latest Food-Borne Illness Outbreak
Fresh basil may be a staple of summer cooking in many Capital Region homes and restaurants, but area consumers would be well-advised this summer to stick with local sources—and especially, to avoid basil from Siga Logistics de RL de CV of Morelos, Mexico.
Basil from the company apparently has sickened at least 132 people across 11 states with cyclosporiasis, a gastrointestinal illness that can cause diarrhea, appetite loss, weight loss, stomach cramps, bloating, nausea, and fatigue (symptoms may take a week or more to appear after exposure). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of July 24, 2019, 132 laboratory-confirmed cases of Cyclospora infections associated with this outbreak have been reported from 11 states, with exposures reported at restaurants in four states (Florida, Minnesota, New York, and Ohio).
The New York State Department of Health has reported 84 cases of exposure to contaminated basil in the greater Capital Region alone, with 222 cases reported in the state outside of New York City since May. The discrepancy in state and national case numbers suggests that there has been a lag in reporting, and that the numbers of people infected likely will rise.
Illnesses started on dates ranging from June 14, 2019 to July 9, 2019. Ill people ranged in age from 19 to 98 years, with a median age of 54. Four have been hospitalized; no deaths attributed to Cyclospora have been reported in this outbreak.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued advisories warning people not to eat basil from Siga Logistics and warning restaurants and retailers not to serve or sell it. “If consumers cannot determine if the basil is from this company, they should avoid basil from Mexico,” the FDA said. “If they do not know what country the basil is from, they should avoid it.”
The FDA is working with Siga Logistics to facilitate a voluntary recall of the basil.
State and local health departments have alerted health care providers to be on the lookout for reported symptoms of cyclosporiasis, and have advised them in appropriate methods of testing and treatment. Usually, cyclosporiasis runs its course without treatment. However, symptoms can last a month or longer, or return one or more times if left untreated. Health officials urge anyone who experiences prolonged diarrhea to get evaluated by a health care provider
Food poisoning: legal recourses
Depending on the severity of the illness caused by ingesting contaminated basil, there are potential legal remedies, either through an individual or a class-action lawsuit. One challenge for potential plaintiffs that already has been met is that the source of the contamination has been found; the exposure has been traced both to the restaurants that served the basil and the company that distributed it.
The other aspect that lowers the bar for plaintiffs is that under New York state product liability law, the “strict product liability” rule applies, meaning the plaintiff does not have to establish fault, negligence, misleading marketing, etc. In theory, all you need to prove is that the food you ate was contaminated, and that the contamination made you sick. All available supporting documents will help: credit-card receipts, medical records of your treatment, etc. An experienced personal-injury lawyer can walk you through the steps and help determine if your case has merit.
Dreyer Boyajian LaMarche Safranko is headquartered in Albany, New York, and represents clients in food and water illness outbreak cases throughout New York state.