Food poisoning is a terrible thing. If you’ve ever had it, you know what I am talking about.
Food poisoning happens a bit more than we might think — according to the CDC, 48 million people, or one in six Americans, get sick from food-borne diseases every year, 128,000 of them hospitalized, and 3,000 who die — but most of us don’t go spending our days carefully analyzing everything that we’re eating in an attempt to avoid it. We follow the general rules, no undercooked chicken, for example, but overall, most of our eating isn’t spent thinking about what food borne illness we might contract.
But maybe it’s something that we should be thinking about.
In a recently published study, the Center for Science in the Public Interest showed that if you eat out at a restaurant compared to doing dinner at home, you double the chance of contracting a food borne illness. At home you can of course regulate how you prepare your food, but at a restaurant, you put faith into the kitchen behind closed doors. You don’t see the food or methods used to make it, all you have to go off of is your own faith that the restaurant is following food safety standards.
Food safety standards in the restaurant industry are strict, and they’re strict for a reason: no one wants to make their customers sick.
But despite strict standards, there is a big difference between restaurant and home cooking: time. “Dinnertime at home is unlikely to last six hours. At home, it’s a much more compressed time frame. In a restaurant, prep starts in the afternoon, and service can extend into late night. Food may be held at warm temperatures but not warm enough, or food that’s meant to be cold sits out too long,” Sarah Klein of CSPI told Take Part.
So what are the main food culprits when it comes to eating out?
“Fresh produce, seafood, and packaged foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration were responsible for more than twice as many solved outbreaks as meat and poultry products, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” according to the report. That’s a bit disconcerting, and according to the CSPI it’s a matter of finalizing the regulations, and getting the FDA the sufficient funds, in order to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act to deal with this exact problem.
In fact a new report by the CDC found that over the last few years, despite new regulations, food poisoning rates have held steady.
“To be six or seven years out and not seeing a lot of change means we’re no closer to those goals than when we started,” Dr. Rob Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC’s division responsible for foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases told NBC. “That’s a concern, yes.”
So, looking to avoid food poisoning? For now, your best option might just be cooking dinner at home.
Photo Credit: Calgary Reviews
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