The Facts of Acute Food-Borne Illness Across the U.S.

By May 1, 2013Archives

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of six people in the United States develop a food-borne illness. Out of those people, about 128,000 are admitted to a hospital and 3,000 die.

While you may not think about food poisoning as an illness that costs money, consider a 2010 report by the Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University. According to their data, acute food-borne illnesses cost Americans just over $152 billion every year. That includes healthcare bills, missed work days, insurance claims and other various losses. What’s worse, the same study estimates that $39 billion of the $152 billion is from food-borne illnesses that are caused by fresh, canned or processed produce.

This is especially concerning now that Spring is upon us and fresh produce is beginning to make its way to the grocery stores around America.

In both 2012 and 2011, cantaloupe was at the center of this issue. Cantaloupe contamination actually caused two separate and deadly outbreaks of food-borne illness. In 2011, a massive listeria outbreak caused people in 28 states to become violently ill. Tragically, 33 people died, while another 147 were injured. One case involved a pregnant woman who suffered a miscarriage after becoming ill.

In contrast, the 2012 outbreak was caused by cantaloupes that had been contaminated with salmonella. They were produced in Indiana and caused three deaths across 24 states. With a total of 261 people becoming sick from salmonella, the cause of the contamination was thought to be in the soil.

In order to prevent another problem with the cantaloupe in 2013, the Food and Drug Administration is planning to inspect cantaloupe plants and processing facilities this season.

There are more government efforts to prevent food-borne illnesses, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act that went into effect in 2011. This law essentially gives the FDA the ability to focus on preventing food contamination, rather than just responding to outbreaks after they happen.

The law also holds food companies accountable for implementing their own contamination prevention plans. It requires processing facilities to evaluate all possible hazards when it comes to their operating procedures, then act on those hazards to eliminate contamination issues.

So, what can you do to prevent food-borne illnesses? The easiest answer is to have a small garden and grow your own produce. It’s the best way to be sure your produce has not been tainted by chemicals or bad soils. If that is not possible, try getting your produce from local farms. Once home, wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly to remove any pesticides, soil or insects.

LivHOME

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