If the phrase “food safety” makes your eyes glaze over, you’re not alone, but the increasing number of Americans who are being sickened or killed by foodborne illness today should force those eyes wide open. According to a new report, 48 million people — nearly one in seven Americans — are sickened by foodborne illnesses every year. Of those, 128,000 are hospitalized, and at least 3,000 die. These illnesses and deaths cost us about $77 billion each year, in addition to devastating the families of those who are lost. Chillingly, the problem is getting worse, not better. The rate of unsafe food recalls so far in 2015 is up significantly over 2014. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, many of these injuries and deaths have occurred because food producers and distributors have placed profits over food safety. That appears to have been the case for John McKissick of Pittsburgh, who became sick in 2012 after eating cheese he’d purchased at a Whole Foods market. Investigators found that the cheese, which had been packaged for Whole Foods and distributed in 21 states, was infected with listeria. Whole Foods initiated a recall, but it was too late for McKissick, who went into respiratory failure from listeria poisoning. He was placed on a ventilator and suffered neurological damage that likely will plague him for the rest of his life. More recently, at least four people have died after eating cucumbers that were tainted with salmonella. Imported from Mexico, the cucumbers were distributed in at least 24 states, sickening more than 700 people and hospitalizing at least 150. And on Sept. 21, 2015, peanut company executive Stewart Parnell was sentenced to 28 years in prison for knowingly selling peanut butter and other products contaminated with salmonella. The subsequent outbreak, in 2008, sickened more than 700 people across the country, nine of whom died. People who need to eat to survive — and the last time we checked, that’s pretty much all of us — need a defence against the food industry’s inclination to cut corners and skimp on safety. As we’ve discussed on our blog before, the FDA is overburdened and unable to effectively police the industries it monitors. That leaves us with the civil justice system, where the threat of costly damages is one of the only disincentives food companies have against the temptation to pad profits at the expense of our health. Scartelli Olszewski is proud to be a part of that civil justice system, and we’re ready to defend victims injured by foodborne illness in northeast Pennsylvania. If you or a loved one have been sickened by a foodborne illness, call the Scranton and Wilkes-Barre lawyers at our office to discuss your options.