Foodborne Illness: What You Need to Know

Due to the changes in the Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) laws in 2016 and the lack of product transparency it created, I decided to research the impact of import products and foodborne illnesses.

Definition: Foodborne illness is an infection or irritation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract caused by food or beverages that contain harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, or chemicals. Common symptoms of foodborne illness include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and chills.

First of all I was startled by the official CDC (Centers for Disease Control) statement on this:

“Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the United States. CDC estimates 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States. One out of six Americans will have a foodborne illness each year” Aug 19, 2016

I thought how can that possibly be? After further research I found that we often think we have stomach flu or a bad stomach when we actually have a mild case of a foodborne illness. Infants, small children and seniors are often those who have severe reactions.

Due to lower costs and higher margins grocers and restaurants often sell imported food products to us, so a quick look at the impact that imported food products have. New research released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that food-borne disease outbreaks linked to imported foods are on the rise.

  • Most of the outbreaks were due to fish (17 outbreaks)
  • Spices were the second highest (particularly fresh or dried peppers), which are also among the most commonly imported foods
  • Meat (beet, poultry, and pork) had fewer outbreaks, however the highest percentage of hospitalizations and deaths.
  • Nearly 45 percent of the imported foods linked to outbreaks came from Asia
  • Almost 40% from Mexico, beef, peppers. Foodborne illness is the number one cause of children’s death in Mexico.

Lessons learned

  • The more steps your food goes through before it reaches your plate, the greater your chances of contamination becomes.
  • If you get your food locally, directly from the field or after harvest, such as directly from a farmer or farmer’s market, you knock out numerous routes that could expose your food to contamination, as well as can be sure of the quality of growing conditions.
  • Know where you for originates. Restaurants it is almost impossible to determine, and grocers with their private labels they say made for xyz company. My guess is no one in the store knows the product origin.
  • The same goes for beef, pork and poultry, our wise congress exempted them from carrying a county of origin label. Go figure!

I will discuss the COOL law changes in July and how they deceive me and you.