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Understanding Foodborne Outbreaks

A foodborne outbreak occurs when there are two or more cases of confirmed illness after consumption of a specific food product. These outbreaks involve the CDC as well as other public health officials and staff members try to control, manage and prevent these types of occurrences. Many times, investigative work is needed in order to determine the scope of the outbreak, the extent and the original source. Learning from each situation is what helps prevent these outbreaks from occurring again in the future.

Investigation

Once reports are made that a foodborne illness was contracted, public health officials work with regulatory officials to collect a large amount of data. They want to know what the food or product was that caused the illness, what were the symptoms, what was the outcome, what batch was this from and so on. This information will be used long term for better quality control and regulations that are enforced by the U.S. Sometimes a recall will need to be issued in order to prevent more people from getting sick. Often times, a warning is all that is needed.

Some data will point specifically to a foodborne outbreak and this includes:

-A pattern to the illness. Either all the cases were in a short period of time or from the same germ.
-A larger number of people are ill within the same area than normal.
-People who otherwise have no connection to one another are ill but ate at the same restaurant or purchased the same product.
-Common point of confirmed contamination.
-A certain germ of pathogen is found at a suspected restaurant or store.

Prevention

Ultimately, United States regulatory agencies want to protect the public and prevent foodborne outbreaks from occurring again. Investigation is important when an outbreak occurs, but ongoing research is also part of successful prevention. While not every case of foodborne outbreak is solved, many times there is at least a suspected source of the problem. This leads to better prevention at food producing facilities but also better prevention and investigation methods on a nationwide level.

Ongoing Reporting and Monitoring

An original complaint or report comes from a local or state level in most instances. From there, public health authorities will investigate the claim and involve the CDC when multiple states have become affected by a certain issue. Reports are compiled that include the number of illnesses that are present, hospitalizations, deaths, symptoms, toxins and chemicals that may have caused the issue.

Common symptoms of a foodborne outbreak typically include symptoms that are similar to food poisoning. Stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, aches, etc. Seeking medical assistance can help reduce the severity and danger of the illness and can also lead to preventing other people from getting sick. It takes many different people to prevent foodborne outbreaks from occurring. It starts with the farms that produce our food and ends with the location selling and manufacturing our food. Proper quality control and agricultural practices are ideal for keeping everyone in the United States safe.

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