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Posted by: OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers

Getting food poisoning is an awful experience, and the desire to hold someone accountable is understandable. But food safety and injury cases are complex because there are many factors. You might know when you have food poisoning, but proving that a negligent restaurant is at fault can be challenging.

Learn how an attorney prepares a negligence case involving food poisoning and what damages you could recover.

What You Must Prove in Food Poisoning Cases

Food poisoning cases are not the easiest type of personal injury to prove. However, when someone’s negligence or wrongdoing causes you or a loved one to suffer from a food-borne illness, you have the right to seek compensation.

To successfully recover damages from a negligent restaurant or food supplier, you must:

  1. Prove that what you ate (or drank) was contaminated by harmful pathogens. The defendant will say that your symptoms weren’t related to their food but rather a stomach virus or another source.
  2. Have evidence, documentation, or testimony to support your case. The burden of proof is on you to show that it is more likely than not that your illness came from a specific food from a particular source.
  3. Finally, identify all the liable parties.

Identify the Contaminated Food or Beverage

Most of us eat more than one meal a day and in different places. We might eat breakfast at home, join a friend for lunch at the corner diner, and meet for drinks and appetizers for happy hour.

The sheer variety of food and beverages consumed over 24 hours makes it imperative that you isolate and identify the contaminated food.

Track Your Illness

Food poisoning typically starts within a day of consuming contaminated food, but it can begin sooner. Learn the symptoms of food poisoning and write down how soon after your last meal they began.

Your notes should include the time of day and type of symptoms. Describing your symptoms, while unpleasant, strengthens your case that you suffered from food poisoning and not a stomach virus.

The more information you provide, the more credible your claim.

List What You Last Ate

Retrace your meals from the previous 24 to 48 hours. Write down what you ate and where you were. If you recall that something tasted funny or off, include that in your food diary. This information helps document your case.

Ask Other People

Food poisoning often affects more than one person. If you shared a meal with friends, call and ask how they feel.

Call Your Local Health Department

Outbreaks of food poisoning are common, so the Minnesota Department of Health and other state health agencies want to know if you suspect a foodborne illness.

Ask your local health department if others have called about a specific restaurant complaint. At the very least, you can register your illness for the official record.

Check the FDA Recall List

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalls hundreds of defective or dangerous foods, beverages, medications, and supplements every year. Some recalls are voluntary, while others require a government mandate.

Look for Receipts

If you’re confident you’ve narrowed the contaminated food to a specific restaurant, look for a receipt, credit card statement, or other proof that you ate there.

Medical Documentation

See your doctor if you suspect food poisoning. Depending on the type of pathogen you consumed, you might need to take antibiotics or other medicine.

Getting medical care from your family physician, walk-in clinic, or emergency room provides documentation of your illness. A lab can test your blood, urine, or stool for evidence of bacteria, parasites, and other contaminants.

Ask your doctor if they’ll provide written confirmation of a food poisoning diagnosis.

Food Testing

Some health departments can test food samples for specific pathogens. You can bring any leftovers from the restaurant or ask someone to pick up an order.

Substances often tested for in food poisoning cases include:

  • Staphylococcus
  • Mold
  • Coliform Bacteria
  • Fecal Coliform Bacteria
  • Salmonella
  • Coli
  • Listeria Isolation
  • Campylobacter
  • Clostridium
  • Botulinum

Identify Liable Parties

You were sickened by contaminated food in a restaurant, but there is an entire distribution chain that shares responsibility for your illness. A food poisoning insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit might include the food supplier (bakery, slaughterhouse, or farm) and any associated suppliers, vendors, or distributors.

Get Help from Experienced Food Safety & Injury Lawyers

OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers understand the process and requirements to prove food poisoning in an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. We have the skills and resources to help you recover the compensation you deserve.

Call (888) 828-7087 today or contact us online for a free consultation. You owe us nothing unless and until we recover compensation on your behalf.

Notable Recoveries

$10 million

Seven infants were sickened after consuming a contaminated food product marketed to infants

$6.5 million

Verdict on behalf of a little boy who contracted a severe Salmonella infection from chicken

$7.55 million

Verdict on behalf of a little girl who contracted E. coli at a petting zoo

$2.25 million

E. coli infections contracted from a major fast food chain

$45 million

An over-the-counter medication caused severe kidney damage to multiple users

$3.4 million

A pregnant woman contracted a Listeria infection from contaminated fruit and passed the infection to her child

$3 million

Multistate Cyclospora outbreaks


A couple contracted Salmonella from a restaurant


A pedestrian was struck by a left-turning car, fracturing her tibia


A semi-truck rear-ended a motorcyclist causing a collapsed lung, rib fractures and road rash