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November 28, 2021

MDTV on Public Health Emergency Preparedness
Food Contamination
How to Tell if a Food Supply is Toxic
Patricia Stark, MDTV anchor with expert Carlo DiLizia.
Patricia Stark, MDTV anchor with expert Carlo DiLizia.

Surveillance and coordination can help health officials locate the source of food poisoning within days.  Investigations are conducted by public health authorities after doctors report an illness pattern in patients.  Major food contamination sources include improper food preparation and handling and processing plans.  Bacteria can multiply quickly and so food should be stored and cleaned correctly. 


The death rate caused by food poisoning is quickly rising each year.  Roughly 3,000 Americans die from food poisoning annually, and many more suffer from the effects of it.  The two most deadly organisms that cause these outbreaks are salmonella and e-coli.  Luckily, health officials are able to locate the source of the outbreak in only a few days by means of surveillance and coordination between local, federal, and state officials.  By using effective communication, outbreaks can be contained and fatalities can be reduced.

The most obvious way that doctors can detect if there is a food poisoning outbreak is if large number of patients report having the same symptoms during appointments.  Once doctors notice this sign, they report it to public health officials in order to launch a formal investigation to see what is causing these symptoms.  The investigation includes taking blood and stool samples from the effected patients and examining these samples to find a common trend suggesting food poisoning.  If a pattern is detected, doctors can more easily determine the source of contamination.  After identification, officials can determine what strategies would be best in fighting the outbreak, warn the public to avoid the contaminated source, and recall the batch/brand that is behind the illness.

One of the most common ways that food poisoning can be contracted is by preparing food in a unsafe manner.  It is important to keep the kitchen clean at all times and to wash hands thoroughly before touching the food.  Bacteria and germs multiply quick, so certain steps must be taken to prevent food spoilage.  Fruits and vegetables should be washed before eaten and meats like chicken should put in the fridge if defrosting.  Also, to ensure that meat is fully cooked, a food thermometer can be used to determine if meat is at a safe temperature for consumption.  Most importantly, keep foods separate to avoid cross contamination! This includes preparing meats, precooked foods, and fruits/vegetables on different cutting boards as well as storing the foods separately.  By remembering these tips, the safety of the food and the people consuming it can be guaranteed.

Watch MDTV to learn more about emergency preparedness.  Find out what local health officials are doing in your area to test for food safety and to prevent contamination outbreaks.  MDTV is a nonprofit company that provides the public with essential disease education.  The relayed information is designed to raise awareness about current health related risks.

Related Stories:
• Food Safety

Related Links:
• 911Ready
• Food Contamination Video

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