Header graphic for print
Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

The Science and Law of Tracking Foodborne Illness Part 5

Health care provider treatment and diagnosis

Medical records are also an important part of making a food-poisoning case. Both stool cultures, and less commonly blood cultures, can identify the particular pathogen causing a claimant’s illness.

As previously discussed, each foodborne pathogen carries with it an expected incubation period – the amount of time expected to pass between exposure to the pathogen and the onset of symptoms. Medical records can help identify the cause and timing of the exposure.

Symptoms are also important. Most common bacterial and viral pathogens found in food cause similar symptoms — nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, aches, chills, and the like. Various pathogens can have more typical courses. While these cannot be used alone to determine the pathogen affecting a claimant, it can be part of the puzzle. For example, yellow skin and eyes, or jaundice often characterizes hepatitis A infections. E. coli O157:H7 infections are most often characterized by excessively painful stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea.