Food Poisoning: The Importance of Reporting
Why is it Important to Report Food Poisoning?
Just imagine eating a quick sandwich at your favorite deli down the street only to be awakened hours later with horrible flu like symptoms and nausea. The same thing had just happened last week to your neighbor down the street, but unfortunately she did not report the incident and as a result you and many other loyal customers were stricken with food poisoning. No one likes to think about it, but food poisoning affects 1 in every 6 Americans every year.
Food poisoning is a broad term used for contaminated food that causes foodborne illnesses. Food poisoning contaminants include bacteria, parasites and toxins. Food poisoning outbreaks are commonly caused by bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli, listeria, shigella botulism and campylobacter. The reason why food poisoning bacteria is so common is because it is a result of unsafe food handling, which can happen anywhere along the food processing chain. From farm to factory to table, contamination can occur.
Food poisoning symptoms are usually flu-like and last anywhere from a couple days to a week. Adults with a healthy immune systems usually recover with little to no long term effects. But many are hospitalized due to dehydration. Children, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems run a higher risk of being hospitalized, suffering long term effects, or death.
The CDC estimates that around 48 million people get sick from food poisoning in the United States alone. With 128,000 ending up in the hospital and 3,000 deaths, food poisoning and food safety is an important issue. In 2013 the 10 biggest food poisoning outbreaks were from some of our favorite stores, restaurants and food manufacturers.
This is why reporting foodborne illness is important. Alerting your local health department and bringing awareness to consumers and the companies responsible is key in preventing food poisoning outbreaks.
One of the complications in reporting food poisoning is identifying that it is food poisoning in the first place. Some forms of food poisoning bacteria can take days to develop before symptoms occur. If you do not need to go to the hospital but you know it was food poisoning, it is best to report the incident. You may have to backtrack what you ate in the past few days, but if there are others reporting the same symptoms and foods the agency can better pinpoint the contaminated food.
Foodsafety.gov has a state agencies page so you can find your local public health department. If you do seek medical help be sure to report the incident and have them take a stool sample. This is important especially if you suffer any personal injury and need to build a case against those responsible.
Food safety is everyone’s responsibility including the consumer. When cooking at home, be sure that you are using best practices to prevent foodborne illness such as washing your hands, cooking meats to the proper temperature and refrigerating perishables. If you do experience food poisoning, it is recommended to seek medical attention and keep hydrated. Remember it can happen to anyone so don’t let embarrassment stop you from reporting the incident. Reporting the illness will not only help prevent others from getting sick from that particular batch of food, it can help bring light to oversight in procedures and help lower the risk of future contamination.