Have you ever went to a dinner at a friend’s house and wondered just how safe the food is that you’re eating? What about eating in restaurants or even in your own kitchen? Foodborne disease is deadly, you’re not alone if the thought crosses your mind and rest assured that you should be thinking about the quality of food that goes into your body, after all people do die every year from foodborne disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 76 million people suffer from foodborne disease; 325,000 of those people are hospitalized and 5000 ultimately die, all in the United States of America every year. Do those numbers seem shocking? They should get your attention because foodborne disease is something most of us really aren’t as commonly familiar with as we should be.
Foodborne disease starts at the beginning, in the business world often referred to as production. Let’s use chickens as an example. Farms raise ten of thousands of chickens in close quarters, all confined together where the risk begins. Risks such as contamination of infected fecal material from particular litters spreading to all of the chickens. Campylobacter, which is quite common in poultry and is the leading cause of foodborne bacteria in the United States. The good news is most people who come into contact with this particular type of foodborne disease recover typically in a week.
Other factors contributing risks include birds, rodents, tainted field vegetables from uncomposted manure and don’t forget Salmonella. Nearly all foods tainted by animal feces, a good example would be a chicken and it’s eggs are good beginnings for Salmonella and a string of other foodborne disease as well.
Processing food introduces new risks for contamination with the introduction of mechanical operations. Carcasses are plunged in chilled water baths where pathogens spread, some times accidents occur where the intestines of a chicken are accidently pierced by mechanical fingers thus causing contamination on the mechanical fingers. When processing vegetables or fruits, there have been cases where the water used for rinsing them has been polluted.
Then, lets not leave out distribution because if the food isn’t contaminated already, well the risks are just as high when food is distributed if not worse. Usually food or let’s stick with chickens and vegetables, most are packaged at the processing plant. It’s very possible for packaged foods to leak onto one another for a variety of reasons. Another risk in the distributing process is improper refrigeration either by the distributor or by a store who will sell that food. Vegetables are transported using trucks too. Would you want to eat a vegetable that was distributed in a truck that smelled like pigs? Unsanitary transportation and improper temperature are two of the biggest causes of contaminated vegetables.
By the time the food goes through each step, a consumer buys it at the store and then takes it home to prepare it for the family to eat. Proper cooking, such as with chicken, cook until the juices run clear or the internal temperature is at 180 F but that’s not the only danger. Surfaces consumers use to prepare the food to be cooked, utensils, cloths to wipe up spills or cutting boards should be properly cleaned to decrease the risk of foodborne disease. Consumers should pay special attention, wash anything used in preparation and handling with hot, soapy water.
Besides our example of chicken, there are a lot of foods to use extra precaution with, including eggs! Some people like fried eggs with the sunny side up, soft boiled, soft scrambled or eggs that are used to prepare french toast, hollandaise sauce, eggnog and even omelettes aren’t particularly safe. Eggs should be refrigerated properly and the yolks should be cooked until they are firm.
Other foods like deli meats, smoked fish, hamburgers, hot dogs and soft cheeses. Most of us don’t clean our refrigerator as regular as we should and some bacteria’s actually multiply quite rapidly in refrigerated settings. It’s a good idea to wipe the shelves of your refrigerator daily to avoid contamination. People with vulnerable immune systems and pregnant women should be extra careful.
Some people have opted to change their diets completely! With that in mind, while on the topic of foodborne disease there are many other toxins that can’t go without being mentioned. Dr. Joseph Mercola, author of “The Total Health Program” in an article with Rachael Droege, recently outlined the top ten toxins below.
* PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls)
* Mold and other Fungal Toxins
* VOCs (olatile Organic Compounds)
While some of these dont represent sources of foodborne disease , over half of them are. PCB’s have long been banned in the U.S. put are still present in farm raised salmon. Pesticides is obvious because it’s widely used on crops, we buy the food derived from those crops and consume them. Mold, medicinally used as Penicillin, one in three people have allergic reactions and mold can be present in many foods like peanuts or wheat and other toxins can be consumed simply by drinking contaminated water.
Escherichia coli, most commonly known as E-coli, wasn’t such a common household name back in the 80’s but has become a leader in foodborne disease. Sadly, American’s learned the true meaning of foodborne disease and the hideous pathogens that produce poisonous toxins in our body’s throughout the 80’s and 90’s, including E-coli.
One widely publicized case was that of Lauren Beth Rudolph who died on December 28th of 1992. Lauren had eaten a cheeseburger at a Jack in the Box restaurant in California, in a matter of days Lauren suffered from severe cramping, bloody diarrhea, upon admission to the hospital she endured three massive heart attacks and eventually fell into a coma, then died. The cheeseburger was contaminated with none other than E-coli, Lauren’s case was referred to as an index case by epidemiologists and Lauren’s was the first of an outbreak which affected 732 people in five states, which also killed four children. Every year E-coli is responsible for roughly 73,000 illnesses and some 60 deaths, mostly children who die from the contamination of E-coli.
Initially identified as a disease in 1982, still many people, even with all the news reports and coverage that E-coli has received over the years aren’t adequately educated about the risks involved with this deadly pathogen or the measures one must take the protect against exposure.
Actually E-coli is already in our bodies sharing space with other microbes that are usually able to co-exist harmoniously helping our body to shape our immune system by assisting with digestion or synthesizing our vitamins. The deadly form of E-coli is called O157:H7, of course practically any microbe given the perfect condition to rapidly multiply can be potentially dangerous, thus is the story with E-coli.
The right condition doesn’t have to be in our bodies either!
One single bacterium, with the right conditions such as utensils used to prepare food. In just one day, the bacteria can multiply into colonies of billions. Think of a cutting board used to cut meat, the knife, a dish towel laid upon it gathering more bacteria throughout the fibers of the material, transferring the already spreading disease to the counter top, to the sink, to other utensils and could ultimately work it’s way onto our hands and into our mouths. If given the right conditions, E-coli multiplies and dominates our body producing text book symptoms such as those Lauren Rudolph suffered.
E-coli isn’t the only one that can result in death. Salmonella enteriditis is yet another bacteria that can produce similar symptoms to those of E-coli and result in death. Salmonella usually affects people with a weakened or weakening immune system. However Salmonella can actually get inside the body of a hen to contaminate the hen’s eggs before the egg shells are formed and that’s one of the reasons why it’s utterly important to handle and prepare eggs correctly. Other bacteria’s have been around for a long time, they’ve only found new ways to survive, teaming up with new forms every year. The classifications, groups, symptoms and information on foodborne disease could fill numerous books.
The only good news is that most packages of meat, eggs and other foods are now labeled with the health of consumers in mind and many Americans have indeed taken the steps to ensure safety in our homes. After the initial U.S. outbreaks, standards were improved and many U.S. restaurants have changed the way they handle or prepare foods. If you don’t know, look at the label for handling and cooking instructions. Because of similar outbreaks from other pathogens and bacteria’s similar to E-coli, the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control) along with other agencies that oversee our food’s safety are working together closer than ever for consumer safety.
Food in the United States, even with numbers quoted in this article, is still considered to be the safest food in the world. Governmental agencies work hand in hand to regulate stricter standards every year, as scientists continue to study some of causes and affects of foodborne disease in hopes of lessening public exposure to them.All of these governmental entities have websites to help educate consumers about the dangers along with steps to take to protect us. They also post alerts for consumers warning about the hazards in some of our foods, whether it be chemical contaminants the public needs to know or food additives, unlabeled ingredients in products, it can be found on their websites. No matter what the case may be, foodborne disease, pathogens, parasites, bacteria or viruses still represent the biggest dangers to harm or even kill us. Learn how to protect you and your family against the dangers of foodborne disease like E-coli.