Food-related illnesses, such as E. coli and other food poisoning, are unfortunately common. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 8 Canadians are impacted by a food-borne illness each year, resulting in over 11,500 hospitalizations and 200 deaths. Food-related illnesses are dangerous to vulnerable populations, including infants, young children, the elderly, and individuals suffering from chronic health conditions and compromised immune systems. 

This blog post will review food-borne illnesses and their impacts on individuals, particularly in light of the recent E. Coli breakout across several Calgary daycares. It will also explain when an affected person may have a personal injury claim due to such illness.

There are several different types of food-related illnesses which individuals may contract, some of the most common being caused by:

  • E. coli
  • Salmonella
  • Vibrio
  • Listeria
  • Norovirus

These illnesses can result from many different things, such as cross-contamination between raw and cooked food or improper food safety and hygiene practices. 

Many food-borne illnesses can result in various symptoms, such as severe diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, high fever, abdominal cramps, and/or fatigue. These symptoms may sometimes become life-threatening, particularly in vulnerable populations, requiring immediate medical attention

Food Poisoning Claims

In some cases, an individual infected by a food-borne illness may be able to pursue a personal injury claim for compensation to cover out-of-pocket costs, medical treatment, and loss of income, among other things. 

Food poisoning and food-borne illness claims may be considered a subset of product liability claims, and the legal test may vary depending on the circumstances. To establish a successful claim, you must prove that:

  • The supplier or manufacturer owed you a duty of care; 
  • The supplier or manufacturer fell below the standard of care required in such circumstances, for example, by allowing cross-contamination or leaving meat out at room temperature;
  • There is a causal link between the negligent conduct or omission and your resulting symptoms and infection, and the resulting injury or damages are not remote and 
  • You suffered actual measurable damages due to the food-borne illness, such as lost income or medical care costs.  

Claims for compensation resulting from food poisoning or other food-borne illnesses can be complicated to prove, which is why it is important to obtain legal advice from a trusted personal injury lawyer

Shared Kitchen Used by 11 Daycare Sites Results in E. Coli Outbreak 

On September 6, 2023, Dr. Franceso Rizzuti, medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services Calgary zone, confirmed that there had been 96 lab-confirmed cases of E. coli following a recent outbreak at several daycares throughout Calgary. So far, 22 children have been hospitalized. Hospitalizations were first reported over Labour Day weekend, with individuals suffering from “serious illness” and symptoms including bloody diarrhea.  

Care provided to those infected with E. coli may include treatment for dehydration or monitoring for hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which affects the kidneys. Alberta Health Services has confirmed that a small number of patients linked to the outbreak have developed HUS, but all are in stable condition. 

STEC E. Coli May Cause Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)

One parent told CBC News in an interview that shortly after her son came home from daycare, she noticed he had a fever of over 40 degrees, which persisted throughout the night. Despite his symptoms lasting over 48 hours, she was not notified of the E. coli outbreak until several days later. 

E. coli is often contracted through food that has been contaminated by fecal matter and is easily transmitted through skin-in-skin contact. Dr. Cora Constantinescu, pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, said that the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC E. coli) has been identified as the strain in this specific outbreak and is particularly dangerous to children under five years old because of its ability to cause HUS. In severe cases of HUS, dialysis may be required to help kidney function continue. 

Shared Kitchen in Compliance with Health Regulations Prior to Outbreak 

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Alberta, added that cases involving STEC E. coli are reported yearly. However, this outbreak is particularly concerning as it has infected a vulnerable population. Dr. Saxinger stated that she does not anticipate the outbreak to extend beyond those who were originally infected. 

Dr. Rizzuti added that before the outbreak, the shared kitchen used by the 11 daycare sites “was in compliance with AHS health regulations.” He noted that fresh and frozen food samples are currently undergoing testing. Dr. Tanya Principe, a pediatric emergency physician at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, said that there may be an increased number of positive cases in the coming days as further testing occurs. She added that parents with children in the affected daycares should monitor their children for symptoms and seek immediate medical attention if they experience:

  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising,
  • Develop a purple rash that does not go away, 
  • Difficulty drinking fluid or having dark urine, or
  • Otherwise, seems unwell.

Contact Cuming & Gillespie LLP in Calgary for Trustworthy Advice on Food-Borne Illnesses and Serious Personal Injury Claims

At Cuming & Gillespie LLP, our experienced personal injury lawyers provide trustworthy representation to individuals who have sustained injuries or losses due to an accident or product liability resulting in foodborne illness. If you or a loved one have been infected by E. coli or a similar food-related illness, it is important to consult with a skilled injury lawyer who can help you determine whether you may have a claim. It can be difficult to know what steps to take after a product liability incident, which is why we work closely with clients throughout the course of the claims process and litigation when necessary. To speak with a member of our team and learn more about how we can assist you, contact us online or call our office at 403-571-0555.