Food Contamination

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The Center for Disease control has estimated that illnesses directly resulting from food contamination cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths each year in the United States. The rise of food-related illnesses can be mostly attributed to increased eating out. Half of every dollar spent on food in this country is spend on food prepared outside of the home. As the amount of people involved preparing our food rises, so does the risk of contracting an illness from food (Levitt). The people at the greatest risk are the elderly, infants, pregnant women, and those with immune disorders; this high risk group comprises 25 percent of the US population. (Who).

To prevent food contamination, the food must be handled carefully, and not be placed in any condition that would promote bacterial growth. Those who have a job that involves preparing and serving food have the responsibility to protect those whom they handle the food for (Cliver). Food poisoning results from the growth of certain bacteria, and is a concern of the business as well as the consumer. A single case of food poisoning can instantly cause a restaurant to no longer exist. To prevent contamination which might result in illness, chopping boards should be sanitized thoroughly and frequently. The employees' hands should also be washed regularly. It is acceptable to handle raw food with bare hands, however with cooked or ready to eat food disposable gloves or other utensils such as spoons, spatulas, or tongs should be used. Latex gloves should be changed at least once every hour or if they become torn or contaminated. It is never acceptable to reuse gloves after they have been removed once (Public Health).

A common source of food poisoning is cross contamination. This occurs when raw food mixes with cooked food (Hollingsworth). It can happen when the same utensil or surface is used in food preparation. Fecal Materials can also contaminate food before it reaches the one who prepares it ("E. Coli Now").

One of the most common causes of food poisoning is Campylobacter bacteria, manifesting 8 million cases and 800 deaths each year (Cliver). It is the leading cause of diarrheal illness in the United States, and responsible for five to fourteen percent of all diarrheal illness worldwide. Poultry and beef are the most common carriers. Nausea, vomiting, tiredness, and fever are some of the symptoms. The leading cause of acute paralysis in the US is Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS); a Campylobacter infection can cause GBS. GBS's primary symptom is progressive paralysis, and it can lead to respiratory failure as well as death (National Institutes). Campylobacter is carried by as much as 39 percent of the cattle population (MacKenzie).

Another common source of food poisoning is Escherichia Coli; also referred to as E. coli. It can be carried through beef, poultry, other meats, fruits, and vegetables, including alfalfa sprouts. This bacteria can be treated effectively with chlorine and food irradiation (Lowe). Harmful E. coli produces toxins that damage the lining of the intestine; can cause stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and anemia; and can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS can lead to kidney failure, and is the most common cause of kidney failure in American children. E. coli is also a frequent cause of urinary, genital, and intestinal tract infections (National Institutes).

Salmonella bacteria causes headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and intestinal distress (National Institutes). It is present in 34.6 percent of all ground turkey, 4.8 percent of all ground beef, and 8.7 percent of all pork (FSIS). Salmonella typhimurium and Salmonella enteritidis are the most common types of Salmonella which annually effect 1.4 million people in the US. Salmonella can escape the intestine and spread to the other organs through the blood (National Institutes).

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