Mississippi Pizza Hut Lawsuit Filed by 15 People Alleging Food Poisoning

A food poisoning lawsuit has been filed on behalf of 15 people who were hospitalized after eating at a Mississippi Pizza Hut, although local health inspections have not identified a cause of the illnesses.

The Pizza Hut lawsuit was filed last week in Leflore Circuit Court in Mississippi against NPC International Inc., the owner of the franchise in Greenwood, Miss. where all of the plaintiffs ate on January 18, 2009. At least 19 people who at the restaurante that day became ill and required hospital treatment for nausea and vomiting. The complaint was filed on behalf of 15 members from the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church of Itta Bena, according to the Associated Press.

Investigations by the Mississippi Department of Health after the food poisoning outbreak were unable to pinpoint the cause of the illnesses. The investigators did find raw chicken stored at inappropriate temperatures, but that is unlikely to cause the reported illnesses as quickly as they occurred. In addition, Department officials would have expected more cases of Pizza Hut food poisoning among patrons who ate at the restaurant that day.

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The complaint alleges that the Pizza Hut franchisee is responsible for the illnesses by failing to exercise reasonable care in preparing and storing food, and for not properly training its employees. The members of the St. Paul congregation allege they all ate chicken at the restaurant and fell ill within an hour of eating.

Pizza Hut officials told the Associated Press they believe the lawsuit is without merit, based on the Health department report.

Typically, food poisoning symptoms develop within 48 hours after consuming contaminated food and drink, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and diarrhea, as well as other symptoms depending on the source of the contamination.

The CDC estimates that there are 76 million food poisoning illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and as many as 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. Salmonella, which is one of the most common causes of food poisoning, is frequently found in chicken and cost the nation $1 billion annually in health care costs and lost work time.


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