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Foodborne Illnesses

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Submitted By tamara79
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Imagine yourself spending the night out with your friends. You all decide to visit this new restaurant that everyone has been talking about. The atmosphere is nice and the food tastes great. Everything goes well that is at least until you get home. Your stomach doesn’t feel quite right. Over the next few days you find yourself feeling really sick. You just can’t seem to keep any food down. You think to yourself maybe it’s just a stomach bug and it will go away in a day or two. A few days has now turned into a few weeks. To make matters worse your friends who you went out to dinner with have been feeling just as sick as you are. It is quite possible that you and your friends have all been stricken with a foodborne illness. A foodborne illness also known as food poisoning as it’s most often called is caused by eating or drinking any type of food or beverage that has been contaminated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) it is estimated that almost 76 million cases of foodborne illnesses occur in the United States every year. This total amounts to one in four Americans becoming sick with a foodborne illness by eating foods that has been contaminated with such pathogens or bacteria such a E. Coli, Salmonella and Listeria just to name a few. Approximately 325,000 people a year are hospitalized because of food poisoning. Out of that number 5,000 people have died from contracting a foodborne illness. Harmful bacteria such as salmonella, Ê. Coli and Campylobacter which are found in raw poultry and meat are the most common cause of foodborne illnesses. Such foods are most likely to have been contaminated while being slaughtered in the farm in which they were raised. Fruits and vegetables can also be contaminated depending on the type of soil used and the process in which they have been harvested. Other organisms that cause foodborne illnesses are fungal such as poisonous mushrooms, Contamination also occurs in the way that the food is prepared and handled in a kitchen or restaurant. The Norwalk virus is the most common virus caused from the contamination of improperly handled foods. That is why it is very important you handle food properly by washing your hands or wearing gloves and try not to cross contaminate the surface where you are handling or cooking food. The most common symptoms of foodborne illnesses often mimic the stomach flu and include diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, stomach cramps and fever. These symptoms can last from a few days to a few weeks depending on the severity of the illness. If you develop any of these symptoms and notice that you are not improving after a week or the symptoms get worse it is recommended that you seek medical attention. A doctor can most often determine what kind of illness you have by what you have eaten and also by running certain types of tests. If a sample of what was eaten happens to be available in certain cases it is sent to the lab to be tested to see if any bacteria, toxins or parasites are visible. This scenario is rarely used because it has been found not to give accurate results. Elderly people, young children and pregnant women are at a greater risk of developing complications from a foodborne illness because of their weakened immune systems. In severe cases lab tests are often done on a person infected to determine what kind of bacteria they have been infected with. A stool sample is often taken, sent to the lab and cultured to correctly identify what organism is present. Most cases of foodborne illnesses can be treated by simply increasing a person’s intake due to dehydration either orally or through I.V. depending on the severity of the case. In more severe cases a person may have to be hospitalized and monitored to make sure that their fluid intake is balanced, that they are receiving the proper nutrients in their body and to also make sure that their blood pressure is regulated. There are a number of ways in which foodborne illnesses can be prevented. The most important is to make sure that food is properly cooked to kill off bacteria. Also it is very important that once food is prepared that you refrigerate it as soon as possible and don’t leave it out for a long period of time. Bacteria can spread not only from food but from utensils, counter tops, sponges, cutting boards that have come in contact with raw meat and poultry. This is called cross-contamination. To prevent this keep uncooked food away from other foods that have already been cooked. The most important way to prevent foodborne illnesses from occurring is to wash your hands. This is the especially the case before touching food such raw meat, eggs, poultry, and fish. Also always remember to clean surfaces before and after preparing food. By practicing food safety you don’t only eliminate the risk of illness to yourself but also to others.


1. FOODBORNE ILLNESS: FOOD POISONING. (2005-2011). Foodborne Illness. Retrieved January 21, 2011 from

2. MEDLINEPLUS. (2011). Foodborne Illness. Retrieved January 21, 2011 from

3. NDDIC. (2007). Bacteria and Foodborne Illness. Retrieved January 24, 2011 from http://digestive.niddk.nih/gov/ddiseases/pubs/bacteria/…...

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