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Too often food poisoning is more than just a day or two of illness. For many, it can lead to long term complications or health problems. Did you know that a seemingly minor bout of Salmonella infection can cause inflammatory bowel disease, Shigella poisoning can lead to Reactive Arthritis, or that Campylobacter can cause Guillain-Barré Syndrome?
The statistics are staggering. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year 48 million Americans get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. For those doing the math, that means that one in six people living in the United States will get sick with food poisoning each year. With over 31 known foodborne diseases that can make us sick, these numbers continue to grow each year and do not appear to be slowing anytime soon. This is not even accounting for chemical agents or undeclared allergens that too account for a large number of illnesses per year. Undeclared allergen illnesses alone account for more than 30% of illness reports to the Food and Drug Administration each year.
Science and health agencies are doing everything they can to reduce these numbers. The Food Safety Modernization Act has also helped push forward this goal, especially when it comes to imports. But it isn’t yet enough to eliminate the problem. Without medical intervention and timely diagnosis, it is hard to get to the bottom of the issue – and do something about it. Foodborne illnesses are severely underreported.
Health agencies are hoping to combat these foodborne epidemics by encouraging Americans to get medical care for food poisoning symptoms, request proper testing and diagnosis of disease, and to report illnesses to their local public health agency. Through timely diagnosis and reporting, not only can a sick individual get the medical care they need to reduce the risk of developing long-term compilations, but it can help reduce the likelihood of more illnesses. Health agencies can identify food contamination and remove unsafe food from store shelves. Health agencies can also identify where contaminated food came from and work to make food safety changes or have better surveillance of the origins of the tainted food.
But sometimes change needs a push. Reporting foodborne illnesses puts public health agencies on notice. It also helps them detect potential outbreaks, advise companies to recall contaminated products, and develop methods of advanced notice or prevention of future outbreaks.
Not sure where to start? The process is simple: