CDC Says $48 Million Hit With Food-Bourne Illness Per Year

Food-borne illnesses can affect the stomach (gastritis) causing nausea and vomiting; or, affect the stomach and the intestines (gastroenteritis) causing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. They can be caused by viruses, bacteria, and even amoeba. Food poisoning can occur locally in a small number of people, in institutions (hospitals, child care facilities, cruise ships), or in large, geographical regions (several states) affecting many people. Outbreaks of food poisoning often occur in association with summertime picnics, because egg-containing food (custards and foods containing mayonnaise) have been left without refrigeration for too long. The food spoils when bacteria begin to grow on the food.

Recently, there have been several cases of people being sickened from eating contaminated produce. Large numbers of people were sickened from eating tomatoes, spinach, cucumbers and other vegetables contaminated with bacteria. Illness can also result from improper handling of raw chicken, eggs, and meat products. Hamburger and chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 to 165 degrees, respectively. One should never eat raw eggs or any product containing raw eggs; both raw eggs and chicken may be contaminated with Salmonella.

Viral diseases can run through large, contained populations such as people in hospitals, day care centers, and nursing homes. Usually this is because of improper sanitation by food handlers (failure to wash their hands after using the bathroom) and contamination of the food they are preparing. Norwalk virus is classically associated with outbreaks of nausea and vomiting in cruise ship populations.

A recent report by the CDC focused on food-borne illnesses associated with restaurants in a 9-state area. They questioned several hundred restaurant workers about practices for handling raw meats and fresh greens, minimal safe cooking temperatures for beef and chicken, and worker attendance when ill. In brief, this is what they found:

1. Approximately 48 million Americans become ill each year from restaurant-associated food-borne illnesses; this amounts to 1 out of every 6 people in the United States

2. 62% of restaurant workers did not wash their hands after handling raw hamburger bare-handed, increasing the chance of cross contamination of other foods.

3. Over half of the chefs did not use a meat thermometer to measure the
internal cooking temperature of chicken and beef.

4. Twenty percent of restaurant workers said they had come to work ill with stomach
or gastrointestinal symptoms because they didn’t want to lose their jobs or leave
the restaurant short staffed.