Did you know there are more than 250 different types of foodborne illnesses? And while that number may seem daunting, especially when one in six Americans become ill from consuming contaminated foods or beverages each year, there are a few foodborne germs that are responsible for the majority of illness outbreaks, according to the CDC.1 What are these illnesses? What are their symptoms? What can you do to help reduce the risk of an outbreak happening at your restaurant?
The CDC estimates that approximately 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness each year, with 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. And of these numbers, there are two common illnesses that stand out—norovirus and Salmonella. In fact, these two pathogens account for nearly 70% of all foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States.
Norovirus is responsible for 58% of domestically acquired foodborne illnesses and nearly half of all foodborne disease outbreaks due to known agents.2 Of these instances, most norovirus outbreaks occur in a food service setting, particularly restaurants.
Oftentimes, infected employees are the cause of these types of outbreaks. For example, individuals who are exhibiting symptoms come to work and contaminate food by touching either ready-to-eat foods or food-contact surfaces with their bare hands, which can lead to cross contamination.
Norovirus spreads easily and quickly, so people can contract it by not only by consuming contaminated foods or beverages, but also from having direct contact with individuals who are infected with the virus or touching surfaces or objects that have norovirus on them as well. In addition, norovirus outbreaks can also occur from foods that are contaminated at their source.2
In this video about Norovirus, I discuss the actions you can take, which includes practicing good hand hygiene, to reduce the risk of a norovirus outbreak negatively impacting your restaurant.
Each year in the United States, Salmonella is responsible for 1 million foodborne illnesses, 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths.3 In fact, the pathogen accounts for 11% of all foodborne illnesses in the United States.
People become infected with Salmonella by either eating contaminated food that has not been properly cooked or has been contaminated after preparation.4 Salmonella is often found in raw food products that come from animals such as eggs, meat, and unpasteurized milk and dairy products.
While Salmonella is fairly common, measures can be taken to help reduce the risk of infection, such as through proper cooking and holding temperatures. In addition, proper disinfection and sanitization of food contact surfaces (i.e., countertops and cutting boards) helps reduce the risk of cross contamination. Practicing good hand hygiene before eating, and before and after preparing food can also help prevent the spread of this bacterium.
No one ever thinks their restaurant will fall victim to a foodborne illness outbreak, but it can happen and these outbreaks are more common than you may think. It is critical for you to share information about foodborne pathogens and prevention with your staff. This type of education and training can have a significant benefit to your restaurant.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Foodborne Germs and Illnesses. Accessed May 8, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Burden of Norovirus Illness and Outbreaks. Accessed May 8, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/php/illness-outbreaks.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Salmonella. Accessed May 17, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/
- Vermont Department of Health. Salmonella. Accessed May 23, 2016. Retrieved from http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/salmonella/Salmonella.aspx