Finding The Source of Foodborne Disease Outbreaks

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year one in six Americans are poisoned by foods containing harmful bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (E. Coli), salmonella, or other life-threatening diseases. Many times, only one person might be affected, but other times, the tainted food turns into a foodborne disease outbreak.

What is a Foodborne Disease Outbreak?

If two or more people become sick with the same illness after eating the same foods, it becomes a foodborne disease outbreak. Click To TweetOnce an outbreak is detected, public health and regulatory officials begin working tirelessly in finding the culprit of the illness outbreak. Finding the source is important in stopping the spread of the disease outbreak and preventing it from happening in the future.

Why Some Outbreaks Are Mysteries

Sometimes, the cause of the foodborne disease outbreak might be a mystery. Why is this, you ask? There are many reasons outbreaks can be such a mystery. Here are a few.

  • Many times, people assume they got sick from the last thing they eat. This is not always the case. Foodborne illnesses can take several hours to several days before symptoms show up.
  • Many people with a foodborne illness do not immediately contact a health practitioner, or their doctor doesn’t properly test for bacteria that cause foodborne illness.
  • People may not remember what they ate prior to becoming ill.
  • Foods can become contaminated at any point–from the time of harvest through the time it was eaten.

Solving the Mystery

To solve the mystery of foodborne disease outbreaks, there are many technologies used. A sort of ‘DNA fingerprinting’ of the bacteria from those exposed can help determine which is linked to the illness or infection. Another way is to interview people who are suffering to learn what they ate and then compare it to others who are also sick. The most common foods for spreading foodborne disease outbreaks tend to be produce, seafood, dairy, chicken, beef, pork, and processed foods.

Food & Environmental Testing

If the source is identified, it is important to perform food and environmental testing to find out how or why it is contaminated. This assessment might include the food, the facility it was produced in, or both. Ordering a food test helps allow for traceback of the contamination and identifies further safety risks.

How You Can Help

There are a number of ways you can help solve the mystery of foodborne illness outbreaks. Make sure to regularly check the FDA’s website for food recalls, make sure to cook your foods to the proper temperature, and also contact your local health department as soon as you suspect a foodborne illness. You can also choose to have food or environmental tests performed at your home if you are worried that foods you have might be contaminated.

Understanding Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

It is important to understand foodborne disease outbreaks and how you can help be a proactive part in solving their mystery. Through food safety, proper cooking, and handling, and with food and environmental testing, you can greatly lessen your chances of becoming ill from a foodborne outbreak.

To learn more about finding the source of foodborne disease outbreaks, Contact Us.

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