Foodborne Illness

Foodborne illness is defined by two or more instances of a similar illness stemming from a specific type of food. It affects roughly one in six Americans each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This works out to about 48 million people. Of these, roughly 3,000 die from a foodborne illness. Another 128,000 are hospitalized. Dehydration is perhaps the most dangerous side effect.

Food to be careful with to avoid foodborne illness

Foodborne illnesses are almost always caused by contaminated poultry. According to the CDC, it is behind the majority of fatal cases. In addition, contaminated produce makes up nearly 50 percent of cases. Dairy and eggs are behind about 20 percent of foodborne illnesses. Contaminated fish and shellfish represent 6 percent. Symptoms of foodborne illness vary depending on what caused it. In most cases, they last anywhere from several hours to a few days. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, the most common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and chills. Unfortunately, there is no clear treatment for foodborne illness.  

Treatment

Experts recommend staying hydrated because of loss of fluids from diarrhea and/or vomiting. Replenishing these fluids is key in preventing dehydration. In extreme cases, hospitalization is necessary. A 2014 report from the CDC revealed that norovirus is the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food. From 2009 to 2012, approximately 1,000 norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food were reported. What’s more is that restaurants, catering halls and banquet facilities accounted for over 80 percent of these types of outbreaks. The report pinpointed infected food workers who likely spread the virus when handling food without protective gloves. According to the same CDC report, one in five food service workers have reported working while sick with vomiting and diarrhea. To prevent foodborne illness, the CDC recommends washing produce before eating it and to be careful of cross-contamination while cooking.

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