Foodborne illness is a major health problem in the United States. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states there are approximately 76 million cases of foodborne illness every year, which leads to 325,000 people being hospitalized, and 5,000 deaths. The USDA estimates the cost to be $3 billion for hospitalization and $20-40 billion lost in productivity annually. In a 2002 benchmark study, 97% of the participants believed the person preparing food in the home plays the biggest role in food safety.
Below is a chart showing some of the common illnesses and their potential sources.
Contaminated foods carry microbes into the body, which can overcome the body’s defense system and cause infections. Some typical symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Everyone is at risk for potential food borne illness but some groups are at an increased risk. These groups include young children, pregnant women, the elderly, individuals with autoimmune disorders, alcoholics, and individuals with viruses.
Although we are all at risk of contracting a food borne illness there are environmental factors we can control to reduce our risk. These include proper refrigeration and storage, personal hygiene, cross-contamination, contaminated food sources, undercooked food, and time and temperature mistakes. There are some critical but easy steps to follow to ensure food safety at home. These include washing your hands often, wash produce before cutting, cooking or eating, wash utensils and cutting boards after each use. Also, keep kitchen surfaces clean, keep raw meat and ready-to-eat food separate, and cook foods to the proper temperature. Don’t forget to refrigerate food promptly to below 40°F and pay close attention to use-by dates. To find out how safe your kitchen is click here for an interactive quiz. Do you know how long you can keep leftovers in the fridge? Before you “reheat and eat” click here for a handy chart. Also, do not forget the golden rule “When in Doubt, Throw it Out!”
I often receive notices when foods are recalled and I will be updating my blog as I receive this info to share with all of you. I recently shared information on mangoes, fresh cut fruit and spinach which you can read here. It is important to follow the critical steps mentioned above to ensure food safety at home so that you are not one of the 76 million cases of foodborne illness every year