What do Food Poisoning Epidemics Have in Common?

What do Food Poisoning Epidemics Have in Common?

In my last blog, I discussed restaurant chains that have gained notoriety for their alleged food poisoning outbreaks. Is there a common thread?

The Jack in the Box epidemic was caused by undercooked hamburger.

Employees from Subway passed on Hepatitis and Shigella from their stool.

The Taco Bell and Taco John’s epidemics were from contaminated lettuce.

Contaminated clover and alfalfa sprouts were allegedly eaten at Jimmy John’s.

A McDonalds outbreak was caused by contamination from sick employees.

The Sizzler epidemic was caused when a mixer was used on raw meat and other foods.

Hepatitis, commonly found in stool, caused the Chi-Chi’s outbreak.

Following the FDA food code and or corporate educational programs would likely have prevented most of these events. There are threads.

  • Sick employees should not work.
  • Proper hand washing should be followed.
  • Gloves should be used for ready to eat foods.
  • Produce should be appropriately washed.
  • Meat should be appropriately cooked.
  • Efforts should be made to prevent cross contamination.

These are simple rules. I am sure corporate educational and quality assurance programs likely addressed these issues but a disconnect between the well-intentioned corporate office and the food handler/server in the restaurant is apparent.

There must be a better educational and quality assurance methods.

Food Safety Courses need to dynamically address inspection deficiencies.


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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