Food Poisoning Still Common in U.S.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that certain foodborne illnesses have declined since the late 1990s, improvements have leveled off since 2004.

In fact, the CDC estimates that 76 million people get sick from foodborne illness each year.  Another 300,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die each year.  And these are only confirmed cases, because only a small percentage of cases of food poisoning are reported or confirmed; it’s likely the actual number of cases are much higher.

Salmonella continues to be the most common cause of food poisoning, with an estimated 6,800 illnesses confirmed by laboratory testing in 2007.  The second most common cause was campylobacter, which like salmonella and is typically linked to raw or undercooked poultry or eggs. 

Although outbreaks related to contaminated commercially available foods–such as the Peter Pan peanut recall in 2007–often garner the most media attention, most cases of food poisoning are not related to outbreaks.

“Outbreaks only account for a small portion of cases,” explained the CDC’s Olga Henao in a recent USA Today article.

Residents living in assisted living and residential care facilities are often at higher risk of susceptibility to foodborne illness due to age, pre-existing health conditions, or both.  Therefore, it is especially important that providers focus on the following basic food safety practices and reinforce these techniques with their staff:

  • Wash hands before and after handling food
  • Prevent cross-contamination
  • Wash hands after handling raw meats, poultry, fish, etc.
  • Use separate cutting boards for raw meats/poultry/fish and vegetables
  • Use thermometers to ensure foods are cooked to appropriate temperatures
  • Cool foods quickly and appropriately
  • Cover, date, and label all refrigerated foods
  • Store foods at appropriate temperatures
  • Use gloves when preparing raw foods
  • Clean and disinfect the food preparation area

For more information on food safety, visit http://www.foodsafety.gov/.  You can also order the new training DVD from Advanced Healthcare Studies, LLC, Food Safety in Residential Care, to train yourself and your staff.

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