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Five Things to Do If You Get Sick After Eating at a Restaurant

Last summer, 631 people in 25 states—including Iowa—became infected with food-borne Cyclospora cayetanensis. Cyclospora is a one-celled parasite that infects the bowels and causes watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, gas, bloating, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, fever, and body aches. The symptoms can last for a month or longer.

The Iowa Department of Public Health traced the infection to contaminated salad mix from Taylor Farms de Mexico. The salad mix was served at Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants in Iowa.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of all food-poisoning cases involve a restaurant. Do you know what to do if you suffer food poisoning after eating at a restaurant?

  • See a doctor. The doctor will be able to determine if you are suffering from food poisoning and which pathogen is causing your symptoms. You will not be able to file a claim if you don’t have medical proof of your illness.
  • Get PFGE testing. If you have food poisoning, ask the doctor to perform pulsed-field gel electrophoreses (PFGE). This test identifies the unique genetic “fingerprint” of bacteria and can determine if separate cases of food poisoning are related. When two or more people have identical PFGE results, their illness is considered to come from the same source. PFGE can also be used to match your illness to bacteria at the restaurant.
  • Contact the local health department. If you ate in Des Moines, call the Polk County Health Department at 515-286-3798. Tell the health department the restaurant’s name and location, the date and time of your visit, what you ate at the restaurant, what else you ate in the 48 hours before you became ill, your doctor’s diagnosis, what symptoms you experienced, and the names of anyone else who ate at the restaurant with you.
  • Save the evidence. Don’t throw out your leftovers. Leftover food or empty food containers can provide valuable evidence. The food can be tested and may be used to show the source of your illness. You should also save your receipt or credit card slip.
  • Contact a personal injury lawyer. If you become severely ill after eating at a restaurant, you have a right to seek compensation for the medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and long-term effects associated with your illness. The attorneys at Hupy and Abraham offer free case evaluations. Call us at 800-800-5678 and ask to schedule an appointment. We’ll let you know if you have a case.


Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham
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