Food Safety - Preventing Foodborne Illness

Introduction

It must be something I ate," is often the explanation people give for a bout of home-grown "Montezuma's Revenge" (acute diarrhea) or some other unwelcome gastrointestinal upset.

Despite the fact that America's food supply is the safest in the world, the unappetizing truth is that what we eat can very well be the vehicle for foodborne illnesses that can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms and may be life-threatening to the less healthy among us. Seventy-six million cases of foodborne illness occur in the United States every year.

The Food and Drug Administration has given high priority to combating microbial contamination of the food supply. But the agency can't do the job alone.

Consumers have a part to play, especially when it comes to following safe food-handling practices in the home.

The prime causes of foodborne illness are bacteria, viruses and parasites. Bacteria causing foodborne illness include Escherichia coli O157:H7, Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, Clostridium botulinum, Clostridium perfringens, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Vibrio vulnificus, and Shigella. Viruses, such as hepatitis A virus and noroviruses, can also cause foodborne illness. Parasites are another origin of this type of illness and include Giardia lamblia, Cyclospora cayetanensis, and Cryptosporidium parvum.