Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Food Poisoning

I am suprised to learn: Just because you are safe when you cook and you're a clean freak doesn't mean your kids can't get food poisoning. And the symptoms of food poisoning can take weeks to show their ugly face. These are just two bits of information I learned while researching the following Associated Press article:

In interviews with The Associated Press, scientists describe high blood pressure, kidney damage, even full kidney failure striking 10 to 20 years later in people who survived severe E. coli infection as children. They've also found a mysterious paralysis that can attack people who just had mild symptoms. While these conditions strike a small fraction of the millions of people who get food poisoning each year, experts say no one
knows just how many people are at risk.

A consumer group called STOP -- Safe Tables Our Priority -- is beginning the first national registry of food-poisoning survivors with long-term health problems. It's seeking people willing to share their medical histories with scientists in hopes of boosting research.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates foodborne illness leads to the death of about 500 people in the U.S. each year.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's bad bug book has a list of the most common types of foodborne illnesses. Most of them you probably haven't heard of. I recognized, E.coli, salmonella, listeria, hepatitis A, and botulism.

S.T.O.P. has some great information that looks at the myths vs. facts of food poisoning:
Myth: Foodborne illness is caused by food that has spoiled or "gone bad."
Fact: While spoiled food can make a person sick, most foodborne illnesses are caused by bacterial or viral organisms that have contaminated the food, not the food itself. Most foodborne contamination that makes people sick does not affect the appearance, taste, smell or texture of the food.

Myth: All foodborne illnesses are the same.
Fact: Thousands of different bacteria and viruses cause foodborne illness, and health consequences can vary from mild flu-like symptoms to death depending on the organism, the amount ingested, and the unique immune response characteristics of the person exposed. Anyone experiencing abdominal pains, blood in urine or bowel movements, or even milder symptoms lasting more than a couple of days should seek immediate attention.

Myth: Foodborne illness is unusual.
Fact: Since people may only hear of two or three outbreaks a year, many assume that foodborne disease is only a sporadic problem. In reality, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that 1 out of every 3 Americans becomes sick from contaminated food each year, 325,000 Americans are hospitalized, and 5,000 die annually because of the severity of their symptoms.

Myth: Foodborne illness can always be traced to the last thing you ate.
Fact: Foodborne illness can be caused by contamination in food eaten a few hours ago, a few days ago, or even a few weeks ago.

Myth: Safe cooking can prevent all foodborne disease.
Fact: Americans can reduce their family's risk of getting sick by understanding and practicing safe food handling. These include proper refrigeration, cooking to an adequate internal temperature, and guarding against cross-contamination. However, there are many, many instances of foodborne illness where consumer behavior does not play a role. The only sure way to prevent foodborne disease is for food producers to keep disease contamination out of their products in the first place.

Myth: Foodborne illness is no big deal for healthy people.
Fact: Certain populations, like children, elders, pregnant women, and the immune-compromised, have a higher statistical risk of illness and dire consequences, but no one is immune from the ravages of foodborne disease.

Myth: Foodborne illness is inevitable.
Fact: Most foodborne diseases could be prevented by greater industry and regulatory commitment to producing a safe food supply. Every time a case of foodborne illness occurs, it spotlights a gap in the food safety network that has allowed the introduction of potentially deadly pathogens into food. Food producers can and should do more to prevent contamination from happening in the first place, and the government and American families have the right to demand that they do.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


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