Study Ranks Food Poisoning Pathogens

A just-released reports indicates that 14 <"">foodborne pathogens cost the United States a staggering $14 billion in human disease alone. The report, said the LA Times, was released by the University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute.

The study determined that of the pathogenic food combinations studied, the worst culprit was campylobacter in poultry and led to in excess of a massive 600,000 illnesses annually and over 7,000 hospitalizations, said the LA Times. Campylobacter also costs $1.3 billion annually and the loss of 9,500 quality-of-life years, also annually.

Campylobacter usually infects us from tainted poultry, milk, and water. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, followed by diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea, with these symptoms appearing two-to-five days after eating tainted food and lasting up to 10 days. Infections can lead to Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a potentially paralyzing illness that can leave victims with mild to severe neurological damage, as well the very dangerous, and sometimes fatal, meningitis.

The top ten foodborne pathogens included—in addition to campylobacter—also involved Salmonella, listeria monocytogenes, toxoplasma gondii, and norovirus and cost over $8 billion each year in medical costs and lost wages, noted the LA Times.

The report offered a number of recommendations including strengthening standards for campylobacter and Salmonella in turkey and chicken, saying that current standards are not sufficient in lowering these foodborne illnesses, explained the LA Times.

The LA Times also offered a number of helpful hints for assistance in preventing foodborne illnesses, which were developed by Mayo Clinic:

• Wash hands, cooking utensils, and food surfaces frequently with warm water and soap prior to and following food preparing.

• Ensure raw and ready-to-eat foods are maintained separately during shopping, storage, and preparation.

• Cook food at safe temperatures and use a food thermometer. Most pathogens are killed off in temperatures between 145 F (62.8 C) and 165 F (73.9 C).

• Keep perishables refrigerated or frozen when not being prepared and store these foods within two hours of purchase or preparation unless the room temperature exceeds 90 F (32.2 C), then refrigerate within one hour. Freeze food not planned on being eaten within two days.

• Safely defrost food. Do not thaw at room temperatures; thaw in either the microwave (“defrost” or “50 percent power” setting), the refrigerator, or by running the food under cold water.

• Dispose of any questionable food.

• Vulnerable populations should avoid consuming raw or rare meat and poultry; raw or undercooked fish or shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops) or undercooked eggs or foods that may contain them (cookie dough and homemade ice cream); raw sprouts (alfalfa, bean, clover, or radish); unpasteurized juices, ciders, milk, and milk products; soft cheeses (feta, Brie, Camembert), blue-veined cheese, and unpasteurized cheese; refrigerated pates and meat spreads; and uncooked hot dogs, luncheon meats, and deli meats.

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