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Illnesses caused by foodborne contaminants affect millions of Americans every year. Hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, miss work or even die. The result is a multibillion-dollar impact on the U.S. economy and healthcare industry. And the real kicker? Most of these infections could be prevented by simple safety precautions.

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Source Report

The editors at MBA in Healthcare Management Degrees decided to research the topic of:

Chew On This: Impact of Food-Borne Illnesses

Illnesses caused by foodborne contaminants affect millions of Americans every year. Hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, miss work or even die. The result is a multibillion-dollar impact on the U.S. economy and healthcare industry. And the real kicker? Most of these infections could be prevented by simple safety precautions.

No Small Problem

Nearly 20 percent of Americans are sickened each year by something they ate. Hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands die.

48 million

- Annual illnesses caused by foodborne pathogens in the U.S.

1 in 6

- Americans who become ill because of foodborne contaminants


- Hospitalizations

$77.7 billion

- Total economic impact from medical costs, productivity losses and deaths

Who's at risk?

While anyone can become sickened by tainted food, certain groups are more susceptible to contaminants and more likely to become very sick.

  • Pregnant women
  • Older adults
  • People with chronic illnesses

What are the signs?

Depending on the contaminant, the most common symptoms of food poisoning can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Chills

Some infectious agents, such as C. botulinum, are more serious and can affect the central nervous system:

  • Headache
  • Tingling or numbness of the skin
  • Blurred vision
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Paralysis

Where it Comes From

8 in 10

Outbreaks involving food prepared in commercial settings


Norovirus outbreaks caused by sick food handlers contaminating food

Annual average foodborne illnesses attributed to various sources: 
- Aquatic animals - 6.1% 
- Land animals - 41.7% 
- Plants - 51.1% 
- Undetermined - 1.1%

The majority of foodborne illnesses are caused by harmful bacteria and viruses. Bacteria often are present in raw food, or food that's been improperly cooked. Viruses most often are spread when a sick person handles food.



- Found in raw and undercooked meat, poultry, dairy products and seafood; may also be present on egg shells and inside eggs.

Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni)

- Found in raw or undercooked chicken and unpasteurized milk.


- Spread from person to person and most often spread by handling food after not washing hands.

E. coli

- Includes several different strains, a few of which cause illness in humans; common sources include raw or undercooked hamburger, unpasteurized fruit juices and milk, and fresh produce.

Listeria monocytogenes

- Found in raw and undercooked meats, unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses, ready-to-eat deli meats and hot dogs.


- Most often found in fish or shellfish.

C. botulinum

- May contaminate improperly canned foods and smoked and salted fish.



- Causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines

Hepatitis A

- Causes inflammation of the liver


Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia intestinalis

- Spread through water contaminated with the stools of people or animals who are infected. Contaminated food preparers can spread parasites by not thoroughly washing their hands.

Trichinella spiralis

- Roundworm parasite that can be caused by consuming raw or undercooked pork or wild game.


Fish and shellfish

often contain high concentrations of toxins.

Unwashed fruits and vegetables

may contain high concentrations of pesticides.

Deadliest Outbreaks

A look at some of the worst outbreaks of foodborne illnesses in recent history: 
- Year - Event - Infections - Deaths 
- 1985 - California listeriosis outbreak in queso fresco - 86 - 47 
- 2011 - Germany E. coli O104:H4 outbreak from fenugreek sprouts - 3,950 - 53 
- 2011 - Listeriosis outbreak in cantaloupes in U.S. - 146 - 30 
- 2008 - Canadian listeriosis outbreak in cold cuts - 50 - 22 
- 1998 - U.S. listeriosis outbreak in cold cuts/hot dogs - 100 - 18 
- 1985 - U.S. salmonellosis outbreak in milk - 5,295 - 9 
- 2008 - U.S. salmonellosis outbreak in peanuts - 200 - 9
- 2002 - U.S. listeriosis outbreak in poultry - 50 - 8 
- 1993 - U.S. Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak - 700 - 4 
- 2003 - U.S. hepatitis A outbreak from green onions - 555 = 3

Safety First

While it would be virtually impossible to eliminate all foodborne contaminants, simple precautions can help reduce the risk of infection.

Keep clean

  • Wash your hands before handling food and often during food preparation.
  • Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
  • Wash and sanitize all surfaces and equipment used for food preparation.
  • Protect kitchen areas and food from insects, pests and other animals.

Separate raw and cooked

·  Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods.

·  Use separate equipment and utensils such as knives and cutting boards for handling raw foods.

·  Store food in containers to avoid contact between raw and prepared foods.

Cook thoroughly

  • Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood.
  • Bring foods like soups and stews to boiling to make sure that they have reached 158(F). For meat and poultry, make sure juices are clear, not pink. Ideally, use a thermometer.
  • Reheat cooked food thoroughly.

Keep food at safe temperatures

  • Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • Refrigerate promptly all cooked and perishable food (preferably below 41(F)).
  • Keep cooked food piping hot (more than 140(F)) prior to serving.
  • Do not store food too long even in the refrigerator.
  • Do not thaw frozen food at room temperature.

Use safe water and raw materials

  • Select fresh and wholesome foods.
  • Choose foods processed for safety, such as pasteurized milk.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw.
  • Do not use food beyond its expiration date.




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Chew On This: Impact of Food-Borne Illnesses
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