Thomas Hargrove of Scripps Howard recently wrote an article on the risks of getting a food illness in the Untied States.  Americans play a sort of food-poisoning Russian roulette depending on where they live, an investigation by Scripps Howard News Service found. Slovenly restaurants, disease-infested food-processing plants and other sources of infectious illness go undetected all over the country, but much more frequently in some states than others.The numbers are concerning.  For example:

  • More than 50,000 people got sick or died from something they ate in a hidden epidemic that went undiagnosed by the nation’s public health departments over a five-year period.
  • Scripps studied 6,374 food-related disease outbreaks reported by every state to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from Jan. 1, 2000, through Dec. 31, 2004. The causes of nearly two-thirds of the outbreaks in that period were officially listed as “unknown.”
  • The CDC defines an “outbreak” as two or more people who got sick or died after eating the same food. State and local epidemiologists are diagnosing an average of just 36 percent of the nation’s reported outbreaks even though some outbreaks have hundreds of victims.
  • The study found that health departments are more likely to make a diagnosis when a very large number of people get sick. They failed to determine the cause in 31 percent of the outbreaks that sickened 50 people or more. But the failure rate increases rapidly with smaller groups.
  • Fifty-three percent of outbreaks affecting 10 to 49 people went undiagnosed, while 75 percent of outbreaks that sickened nine or fewer people were listed as “unknown” causes.
  • Every year, an estimated 5,000 Americans die from food-based diseases like Salmonella, E. coli, Shigellosis and Campylobacter. Another 325,000 people are hospitalized. The CDC estimates that food-based sickness probably afflicts 76 million Americans annually.

The Complete article can be found here.