Foodborne illnesses: How they happen & how to prevent them

According to the FDA, there are 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, 1,000 reported outbreaks, & 3,000 deaths per year from foodborne illnesses.

 

Pretty crazy right? Sadly, it's not crazy to the people who fell ill or to those that lost their lives due to foodborne illness. It was really real.

Sure, you could argue that the ratio of deaths to mere illnesses is vast, but no matter if it is a day or two out of work or school, it could be life threatening to others. Are you willing to take the risk and not abide by the Food Code? I didn't think so.

Fortunately, living in 2019 means that we are learning more and more every day and technological advances like pasteurization have almost eliminated certain foodborne illnesses. However there are still a few moving pieces that make some of the statistics difficult to track. Some of which are because foodborne illness can also passed from water and person to person thus leaving a rather large gray area around their initial origin.

The FDA has identified the 5 biggest risk factors as such:

1) Incorrect holding temperatures - Like we talk about in one of our other blogs, there is a big no-no temperature range for particular foods.Check out our blog post on Food Temperature Danger Zone to read more about this.

2) Improper cooking - This refers to under cooked or raw foods. If you look at most menus today, and you see and asterisk on a menu there is likely a footnote that will warn you about eating particular foods that are raw or under cooked like such:

*Contains (or may contain) raw or under-cooked ingredients. Consuming raw or under-cooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of food-borne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions.

3) Contaminated equipment - Using tools in the kitchen that we not properly sanitized is definitely avoidable if you take all the right steps to clean them. Check our our blog post the Scoop on Sanitation to learn the proper steps to make sure to avoid this trap!

4) Food from unsafe vendors - The proof is in the pudding sometimes, but let's be sure it's prevented before then. You may do everything else right, and it was actually your products that were contaminated before you even got them. Be sure to trust your food vendors, read reports about foodborne outbreaks in your area and make sure you report the source if it does make people ill.

5) Personal HygieneMake sure your employees are taking care of themselves and others by using excellent personal hygiene. Many restaurants have a sick policy which tells employees to stay home at the onset of any illness, but sometimes it's as simple as making sure they are washing their hands properly. Our blog, Hands on Hand Washing, will give you the scary facts on how many people carry bacteria on their hands from poor hand washing. 

Being aware of these five risk factors is important, but making sure you set controls before it happens is better. Check out the rest of the Food Code document from the FDA to make sure you are doing everything you can to stop foodborne illness at work, school or even your own home.

 

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