The importance of food safety cannot be overemphasized. Few things are as detrimental to a foodservice establishments as an officially noted outbreak of a food-borne illness caused by poor sanitary practices.
In addition to providing a sanitary atmosphere and adhering to procedures for safe food handling, it is also important to ensure a safe working environment.
Food is not only vital to human survival but also is used by certain microorganisms (e.g., Escherichia coli, Clostridium botulinum) and parasites for their sustenance and reproduction. When those that are dangerous to people find their way into foods, the potential for food-borne illnesses begins.
Harmful and infective agents may be introduced during any of the following steps:
- Marketing (including transportation and storage)
- Storing & Preparing (in the home or in commercial operations)
Food usually reaches consumers via restaurants, fast-food outlets, and supermarkets and other retail outlets after it has traveled an extended route from farm to the dining table, and much can happen somewhere along the way.
- In 2010, over 500 million eggs were recalled after more than 1,500 people became ill when they ate undercooked eggs infected with Salmonella (ultimately traced to two egg producers in Iowa).
- Another outbreak that year (affecting about 89 people in a total of 15 states and the District of Columbia) was traced to raw alfalfa sprouts contaminated with Salmonella.
These are but two of numerous cases of food-borne illnesses. In fact, 48 million cases are estimated to occur in the United States annually, but the causes of only about a fifth of these are determined.
In 2010, norovirus apparently caused 5.5 million cases; various types of bacteria were responsible for 3.9 million cases, among which were non-typhoidal Salmonella spp. (more than a million illnesses and 378 deaths), Clostridium perfringens and Campylobacter spp., Listeria (1,591 illnesses, with 255 deaths), and forms of E. coli (more than 175,000 illnesses and 20 deaths).
Hospital admissions included patients with non-typhoidal Salmonella spp. (35 percent), norovirus (26 percent), Campylobacter spp. (15 percent), and Toxoplasma gondii (8percent).
Of these cases, those resulting in death (in descending order) were non-typhoidal Salmonella spp., T. gondii, Listeria monocytogenes, and norovirus. Serious outbreaks are not just a recent occurrence.
- The 1993 outbreak of illness caused by viable E. coliO157:H7 in hamburgers sold at several outlet of a fast-food chain focused national attention on the potentially fatal outcome if microorganisms are allowed to flourish in a food that is consumed without adequate heat treatment to kill the pathogens.
- Since then numerous outbreaks have been traced environmental contamination of field crops, processing plants, and food service on cruise ships and in commercial facilities.
In 2006, spinach contaminated with E. coliO157:H7 sickened more than 200 people and caused three deaths. The origin of this outbreak was traced to the spinach fields where the offending bacteria were found in fecal material from feral pigs or other wildlife in the area.
- In another outbreak of food-borne illness, unpasteurized fruit juices containing E. coliO157:H7 resulted in at least 49 identified infections and one death.
- This happened despite the fact that similar problems were identified in unpasteurized fruit juices several years earlier.
A major recall in July 2007 resulted when cases of botulism were traced to canned meat products that had not been heated adequately to kill spores of C. botulinum.
Other prominent cases include hepatitis a outbreak caused when strawberries harvested infields lacking adequate toilet facilities for workers were frozen and ultimately served in school lunch programs in Michigan And Few Other States.
Increasingly, such problems are being detected nour food supply because of the large amounts of fresh produce being imported from around the world.
Food safety is becoming an international problem. Shellfish From Water Contaminated with human waste have also been the source of such food-borne infections hepatitis A.
In Major outbreaks, newspapers, radio, television, and Internet news stories are important in alerting people when recalls are made.
The frequency of food recalls has resulted in 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
This legislation, which is designed to give the FDA greater enforcement powers, has three major thrusts:
- Increased frequency of inspections
- Required certification by an accredited third-party auditor for imported foods and facilities.
- Establishing a product-tracing system that allows the agency to effectively track and trace foods,particularly those on the list of high-risk foods.
[Food safety requires careful temperature control of foods from farm to table]
- Enforcement of high standards of sanitation for all food handlers is needed in all environments where food is being stored, prepared, and served.
- Food-borne illnesses, ranging from causing physical discomfort to death, can be caused by various bacteria, viruses, molds, parasites, and chemicals that may be found in some foods that have not been refrigerated properly and handled safely.
- The additives that may be incorporated in food products for a variety of reasons are regulated, to improve nutritional value, enhance such sensory characteristics as flavor, and for other reasons specified by law.
http://www.safe-poultry.com/ preventionandcontrol.asp —Recommendations for controlling Salmonella in poultry.
http://www.cdc.gov/eid/ content/17/1/7-T2.htm —CDC 2010 data on cases of food-borne illness.
http://www.fda.gov/ NewsEvents/Newsroom/ PressAnnouncements/ 2007/ucm108873.htm
—FDA summary of the 2006 outbreak from contaminated raw spinach.
http://www.ift.org/ food-technology/ newsletters/ift-weekly- newsletter/2011/ january/011011.aspx
—Summary of Food Safety Modernization Act.