Food Safety Concerns Continue in New York

food safety new york

Just as we were celebrating National Food Allergy Awareness Month, a report surfaced that many food packaging materials contain high levels of a dangerous chemical.

The tainted packages were from large fast-food chains, like Cava, Arby’s, Nathan’s Famous, Burger King, Stop & Shop, Chick-fil-A, and Sweetgreen.

These companies used PFAS to separate grease from wrappers.

Scientists also found traces of this chemical in the ink on the packages. Many grocers and other retailers have eliminated PFAS from their packages, but obviously, not all have done so.

Doctors are especially concerned about the relationship between PFAS poisoning and COVID-19. That’s especially true since more Americans are now eating take-out food. The CDC found “evidence from human and animal studies that PFAS exposure may reduce antibody responses to vaccines.”

Common Food Allergies

Thirty-two million Americans have at least one food allergy. Some of these individuals have mild allergies which involve manageable reactions.

Others have serious allergies. The adverse anaphylactic reactions are often life-threatening, even if they only consume a tiny bit of a forbidden food. Some common food allergies include:

  • Milk: There’s a difference between lactose intolerance and a milk allergy. Lactose intolerant people have trouble digesting the sugar in dairy products. A non-immunoglobulin mediated milk allergy is basically an immune system disorder that causes severe digestive problems.
  • Eggs: This food allergy isn’t as common and usually isn’t as serious. Pretty much no one heats milk, but pretty much everyone heats eggs. The heat reduces the effect of the allergy. Adverse reactions to egg protein include digestive issues, respiratory issues, and anaphylaxis.
  • Nuts: About half of fatal anaphylactic reactions are nut allergies. The non-fatal reactions, such as digestive problems, are normally worse as well. People very rarely outgrow this allergy, so they must deal with it for life. Peanut allergies are a bit different. Technically, peanuts are legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas) as opposed to nuts.

Anaphylaxis is a severe immune system disorder. The body generates a host of dangerous chemicals which cause hypotension (severe low blood pressure) and serious breathing problems.

Provider Negligence

Most life-threatening allergic reactions occur in restaurants. As mentioned, a tiny amount of food could cause an adverse reaction.

Sometimes, the allergen doesn’t need to touch the food. Many allergens are airborne, so proximity is enough.

The problem is worse when people try new restaurants. Many people don’t know exactly what they are eating.

Legally, restaurants and other food providers, like grocery stores, have a twofold duty in New York. They must provide information at the front end and be ready to react appropriately on the back end.

A restaurant menu is a good example of front-end information. Many menus include a general disclaimer, which is in very small print, advising people with food allergies to order carefully.

Generally, such a generic statement isn’t enough to adequately warn people about the danger. So, these statements don’t measure up to the required legal standard.

On the back end, epinephrine injections usually stop anaphylaxis.

However, the right tools must be immediately available. Additionally, restaurant workers must know the signs of anaphylaxis and what to do. Usually, unless the epinephrine is injected within a few seconds, it’s too late. Understaffing is a serious problem at restaurants. Lack of training is an issue as well.

PFAS in Consumer Products

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are chemicals that form barriers between two things. flame-retardant clothes, Stainmaster carpet, and non-stick coatings could all contain PFAS or a related chemical, like PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). Industrial products, like food packaging, could be tainted as well.

Additionally, powerful firefighting foams, like the stuff used at airports and Air Force bases to douse jet fuel fires, often have high levels of PFOA or PFAS.

Regardless of the source, the chemicals leak into groundwater, contaminating drinking wells. Our New York personal injury attorneys handle many such PFOA water contamination cases. The adverse health effects of such chemicals include:

  • Testicular and kidney cancer,
  • Hyperthyroidism,
  • Liver disease,
  • High cholesterol, and
  • Immune system issues.

Because PFOA and PFOS affect the human immune system, these chemicals could transform mild food allergies into severe food allergies.

Therefore, if a person with a food allergy was exposed to PFAS or PFOA, the next time s/he comes into contact with certain foods could quite literally be the last time.

The body cannot naturally purge toxins like these, and there is no safe exposure level. That double whammy could cause an incredibly serious injury.

Liability Issues

Consumer and industrial products laced with PFOA or PFAS are defective products. Generally, manufacturers are strictly liable for any injuries their defective products cause.

To establish cause, attorneys usually focus on illness clusters. If an unusually large number of people in the same area develop one of the aforementioned illnesses, that’s probably not a coincidence.

Although the burden of proof is low in a civil case, victim/plaintiffs must amass as much evidence as possible. Manufacturers routinely summon “experts” to the stand who testify, with a straight face, that a toxic substance is as safe as mother’s milk.

Government regulators sometimes don’t do enough to protect people from dangerous products. If you were injured, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in New York at Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC for a free consultation. We handle these matters on a nationwide basis.