Preventing illnesses caused by food mishandling
■ Metro Service / Contributed
Numerous foodborne illness outbreaks of salmonella and E. coli have occurred across the United States and Canada in 2018. Such outbreaks are not limited to North America. In May, more than 40 cases of hepatitis A were reported in six European Union countries, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
When two or more people get the same illness from the same food or drink source, the event is called a foodborne disease outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While infection from salmonella strains and escherichia coli are some of the most notable contagions, other illnesses can occur as well, as evidenced by the EU hepatitis outbreak. Listeria and cyclospora are some other known foodborne illness pathogens. Through the first half of 2018, warnings and recalls have been issued by the CDC for shell eggs, romaine lettuce, dried coconut, chicken salad, kratom, raw sprouts, and frozen shredded coconut due to illness outbreaks.
The ramifications of food illnesses are significant. The Food and Drug Administration and the CDC reported that 121 people in 25 states became ill in April 2018 from eating romaine lettuce grown in the region of Yuma, Arizona. Forty-six of those individuals were hospitalized, including 10 who developed a type of kidney failure. One person in California died from the sickness.
Increased reporting about foodborne illness outbreaks begs the question as to whether or not more can be done to reduce the spread of these harmful pathogens. Contamination can occur in various places as food makes its way to dinner tables. Long-term prevention of foodborne illness outbreaks involves the cooperation of many people in the production chain — all the way to the consumer, according to the CDC.
• Production and harvesting needs to be safe and clean, with efforts to keep food products free of animal waste and sewage contamination.
• Inspection of processing plants can help ensure sanitary practices are in place.
• Pasteurization, irradiation, canning, and other steps can kill pathogens during food processing.
• People who package or prepare foods must properly wash their hands and clean facilities where food is handled.
• Food service workers should not go to work when they are ill.
• Foods need to be kept at proper temperatures during transport and when on display at stores.
• Consumers should be aware of expiration dates and employ proper food handling and cooking measures. These include thoroughly washing produce, and cooking poultry, meats and other foods to the recommended temperatures.
People who experience food poisoning should report each instance to the local or state health department. Identifying symptoms and location can help health officials track illnesses and look for similar exposures.