Risk Perspective: Foodborne Illness Prevalence

Fresh Fish at a Fish Market

Fresh Fish at a Fish Market

Why Foodborne Illnesses Matter
Foodborne Illness is a significant business hazard risk area affecting restaurants, food service, and food production operations, and many other service, hospitality, and manufacturing industries. It is also an important topic for personal risk control. Because of the importance of the issue, and how many people it touches in one way or another, it deserves repeated coverage from several angles and levels of depth.

The types and categories of foodborne illness, risk factors, signs and symptoms, prevalence, severity levels, and control measures are all worth becoming familiar with to a certain degree. That degree varies, of course, based on your business and personal connection to the issue, but we will begin with some items of near-universal applicability. To that end, let’s take a brief look at what individual foodborne illnesses are the most common and the most dangerous.

Most Common Foodborne Illnesses
(By number of cases in the U.S.)
1. Norovirus
2. Salmonella
3. Clostridium Perfringens
4. Campylobacter spp.
5. Staphylococcus Aureus

Most Dangerous Foodborne Illnesses
(By number of fatalities in the U.S.)
1. Salmonella
2. Toxoplasma Gondii
3. Listeria Monocytogenes
4. Norovirus
5. Campylobacter spp.

Bacteria Under the Mircoscope

Pathogens Under the Microscope

A Question for You

So here’s the question and the issue: If you don’t happen to work directly in the area of food safety, environmental health, or sanitation, how many of those sound familiar to you? How many do you think about related to any particular set of conditions that you see? Many people recognize two or three and have just about no sense of the rest. Did you have any sense, looking at the lists, of what sort of numbers we are talking about? Here are the numbers for 2011:

Number of Cases of Most Common Foodborne Illnesses
(Cases in the U.S., in thousands)
1. Norovirus 5400
2. Salmonella 1000
3. Clostridium Perfringens 965
4. Campylobacter spp. 845
5. Staphylococcus Aureus 241

Most Dangerous Foodborne Illnesses
(By number of fatalities in the U.S.)
1. Salmonella 378
2. Toxoplasma Gondii 327
3. Listeria Monocytogenes 255
4. Norovirus 149
5. Campylobacter spp. 76

Note:  Foodborne Illness Data from Centers for Disease Control, 2000-2008 and 2011 data.

Chef making crepes

Crepe Making

And It Makes What Difference?

Now what do those numbers mean to you? What is the relative level of danger and appropriate response? I’d suggest that most people in general, and many people in affected businesses, don’t have good answers to those two questions. We will cover some of the facts, figures, and approaches to the control of foodborne illnesses in restaurants, food service, food manufacturing, and at home. More importantly, though, is the idea that whatever your business or personal situation, you need to understand the most prominent risks you face, and have a sense of what to do about it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s