Food Poisoning 101 – Chicken

As the holiday season draws near, many people will dine with family and friends to celebrate.  Here is some important information regarding the safe handling of chicken.

In 2009, “Consumer Reports” found that 66 percent of chicken it tested was contaminated with either salmonella or campylobacter, bacteria that can cause sometimes life-threatening food poisoning.  It is essential that chicken be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent food poisoning from these bacteria. 

Common Symptoms

The main symptoms of salmonella and campylobacter center around intestinal disturbances. Abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting are common after ingesting salmonella and can occur within two to ten days after ingesting campylobacter.


Bacteremia occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body. Salmonella can infect bone, called osteomylitis; infections of the sac around the heart, called pericarditis; meningitis, an infection in the brain or spinal cord; liver infection, called hepatitis; or lung infections, such as pneumonia. Bacteremia most often occurs in people with compromised immune systems, such as people taking immunosuppressant drugs, people undergoing chemotherapy, people with a damaged or absent spleen or people who take medications that decrease stomach acid. Stomach acid helps protect the intestines from infection.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Campylobacter infection can lead to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a temporary paralysis that starts at the feet and moves upward, in around 1 in 2,000 cases, according to a 1998 article in “Emerging Infectious Diseases,” the magazine of the National Center for Infectious Diseases. Guillain-Barre starts with weakness and tingling in the lower extremities and can cause almost complete paralysis, eventually requiring a breathing machine. Although most people recover from the disorder, some weakness may remain.


Symptoms should resolve on their own within four to seven days, according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. During this time period, your body will lose a large amount of fluids from diarrhea and vomiting, depending on the severity of your condition, so staying well-hydrated is essential. If you cannot hold down solid foods or liquids, chew on ice chips or suck on ice pops to get some fluid into your system. Consume clear liquid foods, such as gelatin, lemon-lime soda, broth and sports drinks, as long as you can tolerate them. If your symptoms require hospitalization, you may have to be hooked up to intravenous fluid, or an IV, to replenish lost fluids.

Restaurants May Be Held Responsible If You Are Sick Due to Undercooked Food

Under California law, a restaurant has an obligation to serve safe food.  If the restaurant does not, a person may have a claim for a violation of the implied warranty of merchantability for food (CACI 1233).  To prevail, the plaintiff must show: 

  1. That [name of plaintiff] [ate/drank] a [food product] sold by [name of defendant];
  2. That, at the time of purchase, [name of defendant] was in the business of selling the [food product] [or by [his/her] occupation held [himself/herself/itself] out as having special knowledge or skill regarding this [food product]];
  3. That the [food product] was harmful when consumed;
  4. That the harmful condition would not reasonably be expected by the average consumer;
  5. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and
  6. That the [food product] was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.
If you or someone you know has been injured due to the consumption of undercooked food, please contact Ford & Diulio PC at 714-384-5540.