How can foodborne illness outbreak be harmful to people

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trophyhunter1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. Foodborne illness can be attributed to a parasite, bacteria or virus that enters the digestive tract and causes symptoms that are specific to the disease vector. From recent data from the CDC, 60% of outbreaks occur in restaurants, 14% are linked to caterers and 12% occur in homes. According to the CDC-- In 2013, 818 foodborne disease outbreaks were reported, resulting in 13,360 illnesses, 1,062 hospitalizations, 16 deaths, and 14 food recalls.

With statistics like these, it is easy to see that foodborne illness affects people lives, along with the economy in profound ways.

Symptoms can include vomiting, fever, chills, nausea, diarrhea, stomach and intestinal pain. A prolonged period of diarrhea can result in dehydration which is particularly dangerous to infants and the elderly and people with compromised health due to prior conditions.

Eating raw or under-cooked food increases the chances of becoming infected by harmful bacteria, which may already be on foods if they are not properly stored and refrigerated. Also, food handlers in restaurants can unwittingly transmit disease organisms if they don't follow the proper sanitary precautions when handling foods. 

An example of a bacteria that can spread foodborne illness is Escherichia coli or E. Coli which can be transmitted via undercooked meats that are contaminated as well as on fresh produce that was not washed properly. Another example is Salmonella which may be present in eggs, poultry, under cooked meats and fish. When handling poultry, it is important to clean the area, your hands and any tools properly to reduce exposure to this bacterium.

Parasites can make people very ill. They live inside a host organism and they rarely kill their host quickly--however, if they gain entry to the body, they can slowly cause disease symptoms. Parasitic infections can occur when people consume raw or under cooked food, drink contaminated water or eat food that was handled by another infected person who didn't follow hand-washing procedures. Roundworms and tapeworms are sometimes present in wild game, meat and fish that is not properly cooked or previously inspected for parasites.

Viruses may be the cause of foodborne illness if an infected individual prepares food in a restaurant and doesn't properly wash their hands after they have used the bathroom. The virus can then be transferred to the food and to any who consume the food. Also, when food is taken from a polluted or contaminated area, it may have the virus already on it--this includes shellfish and even crops that are grown in water that is contaminated.

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