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Product liability: Food-borne illnesses up 44 percent in 2012

Peanut butter, cantaloupe, mangoes -- in the last year, there have been major product recalls for each of these items. Sickness from consuming these tainted food products affected people in 19 states, and the victims were predominantly kids.

What may disturb Californians even more is that the situation does not appear to be improving. The number of cases in which a person suffered personal injury or even died because of contaminated food has shot up 44 percent in a single year.

To say the least, these numbers are troubling. According to the Public Interest Research Group, each year about 48 million people consume tainted food products and fall ill. A recent report from the organization indicates that there were 1,035 cases of food-borne illness between January and September of 2012. In 2011, sickness in 718 individuals was linked to food that was distributed in the United States.

Though the numbers wouldn't suggest it, there have been sweeping governmental efforts to improve food safety in the U.S. The Food Safety Modernization act was signed by President Obama in 2010. That law gave the Food and Drug Administration more authority to crack down on negligent food suppliers.

Still, budget issues in Congress appear to have held up funding for the FDA. The agency has been unable make the necessary inspections of all the imported food that Americans consume. About 15 percent of all the food eaten by Americans is imported, and the FDA indicated that two-thirds of the vegetables and fruits Americans consume come from other countries.

Regardless of the politics and the rising numbers of food-borne illnesses, what matters to people who have been made sick by a dangerous food product is the path to recovery. Too often, though, food growers and distributors, along with their legal resources and insurance companies, will try to shirk responsibility, sometimes even blaming the injured consumer. California residents who are facing this kind of challenge would do well to consult with an attorney with experience in product liability claims.

Source: CNN, "Report: Unsafe food putting lives at risk," Todd Sperry, Oct. 25, 2012

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