Foodborne illness

By • Published: July 13th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It seems that every time you turn on the television or pick up a newspaper, there’s a new story about some type of foodborne illness that’s threatening the nation’s health. From peanut butter to pistachios, jalapenos to tomatoes, it’s scary to put almost anything in your mouth these days.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the panic is overblown. In fact, despite the media hype, the rates of foodborne illness have been holding steady for the past five years. Before that, the rates had been declining from the mid-1990s until the beginning of this decade, largely thanks to improvements in the meat and poultry industry.

A recent study by the C-D-C showed that salmonella is still the most common cause of food poisoning, with a rate of sixteen cases per every one-hundred-thousand people.

But it may be premature to celebrate. While the rate may not be increasing, it is no longer headed downward. And some studies suggest that illness related to produce… as opposed to meat… may be on an uptick. So how can you best protect yourself against foodborne illness? The C-D-C offers several simple steps:

Be sure to cook meat, poultry and eggs thoroughly.

Keep foods separate and don’t allow them to cross-contaminate one another with utensils or cutting boards.

Chill leftovers promptly. Bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature.

Be sure to thoroughly wash all produce.

And report any suspected foodborne illness to your local health department as soon as possible.