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Recipe for Disaster: Foodborne Illness

The warm summer months provide many opportunities for carefree activities such as picnics and backyard barbecues. However, according to the CDC, forgetting about proper handling of food is a recipe for disaster.

Every year 48 million people in the United States become ill from eating contaminated food. Foodborne illnesses are identified as outbreaks when the same pathogen affects two or more people who consumed the same food.  Foodborne illness affects 17% of the country. This leads to 3000 deaths and 128,000 hospital admissions annually. This is a public health burden.

Children under the age of 4, adults over the age of 50 and persons with decreased immunity are at risk for contracting foodborne infections. Children under the age of 4 have the most positive cultures for Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Salmonella, Shiga toxin producing E. coli O157, Shigella and Yersinia. These are foodborne infections.

The CDC has traced several foodborne infections outbreaks this year. A Salmonella outbreak was traced to a turkey plant in North Carolina. This plant recalled 78,164 pounds of raw ground turkey on March 13, 2019.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. The CDC notes these symptoms occur 12 to 72 hours after exposure and lasts for 4 to 7 days. Children and the elderly as noted earlier may have more severe illness requiring hospitalization.

A meat packing company in Illinois recalled 53,200 pounds of raw ground beef after an E. coli foodborne outbreak was traced to the plant. This recall occurred April 24,2019.

A meat packing company in Georgia recalled 113,424 pounds of raw ground beef contaminated with E. coli on April 23, 2019. The CDC noted that some of the recalled raw ground beef from these plants may still be in consumer’s freezers or in stores.

A virulent form of E. coli called Shiga toxin producing E. coli or STEC O157, causes foodborne outbreaks in the United States.  This E. coli infection causes 265,000 illnesses, 3600 hospitalizations and 30 deaths a year.

The CDC recommends four tips to help prevent foodborne illness:


  • Wash hands before during and after handling food.  Wash utensils and cutting boards that come in contact with raw turkey, ground beef and poultry with soap and water.


  • Always place produce and raw meats on separate cutting boards to prevent cross contamination. Always prevent raw meat in your refrigerator from dripping onto other foods in your refrigerator.


  • The CDC recommends that consumers do not eat undercooked ground turkey or ground beef. Cooked ground turkey and ground beef should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Food thermometers should be placed in the side of the burger to measure the temperature in the middle.
  • Hot weather increases foodborne illness. Bacteria thrive between 40- and 140-degrees F. Summertime heat causes food safety challenges.


  • Always refrigerate perishable foods promptly. Foods should be refrigerated within one hour when the temperature is 90 degrees F or above. Thaw and marinate food in the refrigerator.
  • Keep summer safe and fun. Put food safety rules on the menu.

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