The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year in the United States, 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of food borne diseases. Children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the food borne disease burden, with 125 000 deaths every year. Diarrheal diseases are the most common illnesses resulting from the consumption of contaminated food, causing 550 million people to fall ill and 230 000 deaths every year. There are more than 250 known food borne diseases. They can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Some diseases are caused by toxins from the disease-causing microbe, others by the human body’s reactions to the microbe itself.
Types of Food borne Diseases
Foods that cause the most illness
- Raw foods of animal origin are the most likely to be contaminated; that is, raw meat and poultry, raw eggs, unpasteurized milk, and raw shellfish.
- Because filter-feeding shellfish strain microbes from the sea over many months, they are particularly likely to be contaminated if there are any pathogens in the seawater.
- Foods that mingle the products of many individual animals, such as bulk raw milk, pooled raw eggs, or ground beef, are particularly hazardous because a pathogen present in any one of the animals may contaminate the whole batch.
- A single hamburger may contain meat from hundreds of animals.
- A single restaurant omelet may contain eggs from hundreds of chickens.
- A glass of raw milk may contain milk from hundreds of cows.
- A broiler chicken carcass can be exposed to the drippings and juices of many thousands of other birds that went through the same cold water tank after slaughter.
- Fruits and vegetables consumed raw are a particular concern. Washing can decrease but not eliminate contamination, so the consumers can do little to protect themselves.
- Recently, a number of outbreaks have been traced to fresh fruits and vegetables that were processed under less than sanitary conditions. These outbreaks show that the quality of the water used for washing and chilling the produce after it is harvested is critical. Using water that is not clean can contaminate many boxes of produce.
- Fresh manure used to fertilize vegetables can also contaminate them. Alfalfa sprouts and other raw sprouts pose a particular challenge, as the conditions under which they are sprouted are ideal for growing microbes as well as sprouts, and because they are eaten without further cooking. That means that a few bacteria present on the seeds can grow to high numbers of pathogens on the sprouts.
- Unpasteurized fruit juice can also be contaminated if there are pathogens in or on the fruit that is used to make it.
Top 6 specific culprits
Bill Marler, a well-known food safety attorney in the US, has recently published an article revealing six food items that he avoids to save himself from food borne diseases.
· unpasteurized raw milk and packaged juices. These are likely to be infected with bacteria, viruses and parasites. He recalled that the 1996 E. coli outbreak that was related to unpasteurized apple juice consumption was among his initial cases.
· Second on his list are raw sprouts, like alfalfa, mung bean, clover and radish sprouts that have the chances of containing E. coli bacteria or salmonella. Raw sprout consumption has been associated with over 30 foodborne outbreaks since the middle of 1990s in the US.
· Thirdly, the consumption of rare meat is what Marler avoids since according to the CDC recommendations, E. coli and salmonella as well as other pathogens get destroyed only when the meat is internally cooked at a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, poultry products must be cooked at a temperature of 165 degrees to kill these pathogens.
· The fourth food item is prewashed or precut fruits and vegetables because they are infected.
· The fifth one on Marler’s list is raw or undercooked eggs because they are likely to contain salmonella.
· The last one is raw oysters and other raw shellfish because they absorb bacteria and other harmful pathogens from water.
Don’t avoid these. Just be aware and wash or cook them WELL before use.