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Who is Watching for Food Poisoning Outbreaks?
We trust that state governments are protecting us by investigating food borne illnesses but there are major holes in the reporting system. Read on ……
In my last blog I mentioned the movie “Contagion”. We would all like to think that if there was an epidemic in the USA that some branch of some government would detect it early and keep people from getting sick.
In fact, some state laws don’t require reporting of all food poisoning episodes. It startled the San Francisco Bay area residents to learn that the renowned Delfina Restaurant hosted a private party in December-two dozen people got sick and the public health department was not informed. The law did not require reporting the food poisoning event. Our sanitation expert says that this is common. Beyond this hole in the law, over 40 states report real time delays in notification of ANY outbreak.*
When designing the DiningGrades.com website, I sought a valid contact email for every state to conveniently report a suspected food poisoning event. Even as a physician, it took hours and numerous calls. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be for the average consumer. I am sure many give up.
Adding to the scary thought of delays and obstacles, it has been reported that state epidemiologists project a national need of hundreds of trained employees to adequately investigate the outbreaks that occur. So we conclude that as a society we are grossly unprepared. When an outbreak like “Contagion” occurs it could spread like wildfire before it is ever reported.
When there is an outbreak, how is the source identified? Stool and suspected food samples are needed. Those samples are cultured, the pathogen isolated and then tested for sensitivity to antibiotics. But we learn in the same survey only 5 states always collect stool samples and only one state always collects food samples. *
Finally, tragically, we discover apathy. “In 2009, the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR) distributed to all states its Guidelines for Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response. Only 27% of states reported plans to implement or incorporate the Guidelines into practice in the immediate future.” * WOW!
DiningGrades.com has a mechanism to report a suspected food poisoning event. It is a simple form that is forwarded to the respective state epidemiologist by email. It is a free tool. If you know of someone who gets sick from food, use the report. The life you save could be someone you know.
The Team at DiningGrades.com
DiningGrades.com improves awareness of food borne illness, provides a mechanism for evaluating and giving dynamic feedback on the dining health and cleanliness of restaurants. Join the FREE DiningGrades.com community today!Together we can make a difference!
*CDC MMWR December 23, 2011 / 60(50);1701-1704