Food poisoning, or food borne illness, affects roughly 48 million people a year, about one in six Americans. It can be a potential liability for a restaurant or a food packaging company -- and a painful purchase for its customers and buyers. By inadequately handling, packaging, or even inspecting their food, businesses often find themselves paying up for making people sick. In extreme examples, a company can even face a wrongful death suit.
If your business regularly handles raw eggs, meat, poultry, or leafy greens, you should tread -- and stir -- carefully.
Salmonella in eggs and E. coli in beef are some of the most common sources of food poisoning. Chicken is also worrisome. But, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the biggest source of foodborne illness is apparently leafy green vegetables, which is linked to over 20% of all food poisoning cases in the United States every year, reports The Los Angeles Times. Other common non-meat sources of illness include sprouts, tomatoes, peppers, and unpasteurized dairy products.
Fortunately, a number of precautions can help restaurant owners avoid being sued by customers for food poisoning. To avoid suits, restaurant owners should:
- Regularly check meat thermometers and make sure they're calibrated correctly
- Keep food in the refrigerator as long as possible
- Wash fruits and vegetables multiple times
- Read labels to ensure fresh food -- but don't go overboard with expiration dates
- Wipe down surfaces with disinfectant before, during, and after food prep
- Organize the kitchen well and keep different types of food stored separately to avoid cross-contamination
- Have a routine system for employees to thoroughly clean utensils and cookware
- Have a firm company policy about employee hand washing, not just in the bathroom, but in the kitchen, after handling meat and seafood.
Breaking bread is fun. Breaking someone's intestine, not so much. If you want to learn more about ways to shield your company from liability stemming from a food poisoning-related lawsuit, consult with an attorney in your area.