Every year, 48 million Americans suffer from some type of food-borne disease and 2000 of them die from it. According to the latest report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), most food poisoning is caused by produce such as lettuce and spinach. Most deaths were caused by poultry. This report is based on ten years worth of accumulated data.
What is food poisoning?
Food poisoning is caused by ingesting food or water containing bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins created by those microbes. Bacteria that cause most cases of food poisoning are Staphylococcus or E. coli.
A food-borne disease outbreak is “the occurrence of two or more similar sicknesses caused by consumption of a common food”, as defined by the CDC.
Nothing wrong with greens
While reports states that more than half of cases of food poisoning were caused by produce, it is not the vegetables themselves that were toxic, but that they were contaminated by microbes during handling, while being packed or cooked in the restaurant. The most commonly found microbe was norovirus. Norovirus spreads quickly from person to person and is found in vomit and stool of infected people. Washing hands frequently and thoroughly is the best way to avoid infection.
The reason why leafy greens are so vulnerable to contamination is the fact that they are often eaten raw. The best way to avoid poisoning is to thoroughly wash all produce before eating.
Most deaths, 19 percents, caused by food poisoning were due to the contaminated poultry. Poultry was responsible for 22 percents of all food poisonings. Most infections were caused by listeria and salmonella.
Interestingly, fish and shellfish, which most people fear of being the cause of food poisoning, caused only 6.1 percent of food poisoning and 6.4 percent of fatalities. Dairy and eggs caused 20 percent of illnesses and about 15 percent of deaths.
Not one of the existing 17 food groups was free from contamination and all caused some type of food poisoning outbreaks.
Health professionals recommend separating food and producing while preparing meals, to cook meat and poultry thoroughly, and to refrigerate all leftovers right away. Consumption of unpasteurized milk and cheese is highly discouraged.