Our Children are at Great Risk of Food Poisoning

It is challenging enough to take care of a sick adult, but when children get sick, dehydrated, need intravenous fluids and look like near death, it is heart wrenching.

As an ER physician, I have taken care of many sick kids. Most of my colleagues would agree that comforting the crying child and sometimes the crying parents, attempting to draw blood or start an IV is really emotionally draining.

Unfortunately, according to a 2011 CDC report, children aged younger than 5 years continue to have the highest rate of food borne infections. Nationally every year there was 1 infection per ~ 1500 children.

Tragically, pregnancy and newborns are at greater risk from some infections. In a recent Listeria cantaloupe epidemic, of the 146 persons infected, seven were during pregnancy; three in newborns and four in pregnant women. One miscarriage was reported.

In the 2008 & 2009 peanut butter epidemic, half of all the ill persons were younger than 16 years and 21% were younger than 5 years.

In the 1993 Jack in the Box hamburger E. Coli epidemic,

“the majority of the victims were children aged under 10-years old. Four children died and 178 other victims were left with permanent injury including kidney and brain damage.”

Sadly, our school cafeterias are still risky. 7% of food consumption Norovirus outbreaks were traced to our schools, and 6% of bloody colitis infections were traced to schools. Norovirus is annoying but bloody colitis infections can cause kidney failure, severe bowel infections, multiple surgeries and sometimes death. Understanding The Causes Of Foodborne Illness Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net) Carol Selman Senior Environmental Health Officer.

Holding a sick child that is pale with sunken eyes, tenting skin, breathing fast and nearly lifeless is frightening for everyone. If you find the illness is caused by food poisoning, all any parent or health care provider can do is try to contain your anger.

Unfortunately, food borne illness isn’t the only health risk for our child. Unhealthy foods are still served in many of our schools. “Junk” food also threatens their long term health. As a parent or grandparent, you are entrusted with the lives of these precious souls. 

Be diligent about food safety guidelines to save our children!


Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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