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More Foodborne Illness Caused By Produce than By Meat or Eggs

Posted on in Food Poisoning

Most Americans recognize the potential dangers of undercooked meat or raw eggs. In fact, many restaurant menus carry warnings that beef cooked less than well-done may place the diner at elevated risk for foodborne illness. While the concerns over meat, eggs, and often dairy products, are certainly based in fact, government research indicates that, more than any of these, fruits and vegetables represent the largest source of foodborne illness in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 9 million Americans are affected by food poisoning, or foodborne illness, each year. More than 50,000 require hospitalization, and about 1,000 cases every year prove to be fatal. In an effort to better understand foodborne illness, causes, impacts, and the types of foods affected, the CDC regularly commissions and conducts extensive research into the issue. Last month, the agency releases its latest study and the findings may be a bit surprising.

Analyzing data submitted to the CDC's Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System (FDOSS), the study looked at more at more than 950 separate outbreaks to best account for involved food types. Researchers identified the illness-causing pathogen related to each outbreak, and determined that salmonella accounted for more than 62 percent of them, by far the most for any particular pathogen. E. coli represented approximately 18 percent of cases and campylobacter caused 17 percent. Less than three percent were attributable to listeria monocyogenes.

In addition to classifying cases by bacterial agent, the study also examined the food source involved with each outbreak. The results showed that nearly one half of all foodborne illness can be traced to contaminated fruits and vegetables. Beef, chicken, and other meats were to blame in about 22 percent of cases, while dairy and eggs caused 20 percent. Shellfish and seafood only accounted for about 6 percent.

The study examined several potential causes for its interesting findings. The increase of fresh produce in the American diet is considered among the primary factors, as is the fact that a large percentage of produce is consumed raw. Cooking provides an added level of safety for many foods by killing bacteria present before consumption. Farming techniques and cross-contamination between meat and crop production are also of concern to food-safety officials.

To prevent foodborne illness, the Food and Drug Administration recommends careful selection and storage of perishable food, as well as thorough washing of both food and food preparation equipment. Proper preparation techniques should be followed, particularly for meat and eggs, including cooking meat to appropriately recommended internal temperatures.

If you or someone you love has experienced serious foodborne illness as a result of poor production or kitchen standards, a qualified lawyer can help you understand your options under the law. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Illinois today for an evaluation of your case.

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