Where Are We Most Likely to Get Food Borne Illness and Why?

food borne Illness

In the 2015 (most recent data) Annual Report from the CDC, published August 2017, there were 902 food borne illness outbreaks in the USA with Norovirus being the most confirmed, single cause. Sixty (60%) percent were traced to restaurants. Sit-down dining establishments accounted for nearly half of the restaurant sources.

The most common cause identified was related to improper cooking with “poor temperature control”, “insufficient time or temperature while cooking or heating”, “improper holding temperatures”, “eating contaminated raw, undercooked or under processed foods”; ‘cross contamination’ or ‘inadequate food preparation causing proliferation of the pathogen’.
• I layman’s terms for the consumer to reduce your chances of getting sick, don’t eat the food unless it is properly cooked and served at the right temperature.
• For the food preparer and server to reduce the chances of getting your guest sick, be cautious about cross contamination and use a food thermometer for cooking and holding.

Unfortunately, this latest report reminds us that restaurants continue to contribute the vast majority of food borne illness outbreaks.
in a “Dirty Dining. Have Reservations? You will now” report using data from 1990 to 2006 “41% of food borne illness outbreaks can be traced to restaurant food”.  Center for Science in the Public Interest June 2008.
In a report using CDC data from1998 to 2007, “All Over the Map”, restaurants and other food establishments were the most common location for solved outbreaks to occur (44% of outbreaks). Center for Science in the Public Interest  January 2011.

In a presentation September 2011 entitled: Understanding The Causes Of Foodborne Illness Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net) by Carol Selman, Senior Environmental Health Officer of the CDC, “Restaurants and Delis were the location of food consumption outbreaks attributed to the following pathogens: Salmonella e. 49%, Norovirus 41%, E Coli 28%.”

The good news is that, we know historically WHERE we can have the greatest impact on the food borne illness epidemics – the sit-down restaurant. And we know historically WHAT to fundamentally address – cross contamination and proper cooking

DiningGrades.com has extensively analyzed millions of inspections monitoring trends in inspection violations. Addressing those dynamic trends can reduce the risk of food borne illness and save a corporate brand image.


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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