One in Six Americans Get Sick from Food Poisoning Each Year: CDC

sick young man - food poisoningOne in six Americans -- about 48 million people -- get sick from a food-borne illness each year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said in new estimates released yesterday (Wednesday, Dec. 15).

Another 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die every year from tainted food, CDC said. The agency published its data in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. of the 48 million who are sickened, 9.4 million cases can be linked to 31 food-borne pathogens -- the CDC didn't have enough information on the rest of the illnesses to pinpoint their causes. The agency looked at data mostly from the years 2000 to 2008, with all the estimates based on the US population in 2006 - at 299 million that year.The good news is there's been a 20% decrease in the number of illnesses from key pathogens in the last 10 years.

"We've made progress in better understanding the burden of food-borne illness and unfortunately, far too many people continue to get sick from the food they eat," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a statement.

Salmonella was the biggest culprit in estimated hospitalizations and deaths, accounting for about 28% of deaths and 35% of hospitalizations. The bacteria was also the cause of 2,400 people sickened nationwide this summer because of contaminated eggs -- top among the food recalls this year.

The CDC also found that 90% of the illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths were from seven causes -- salmonella, norovirus, campylobacter, toxoplasma, e.coli, listeria and clostridium. Norovirus alone was the cause of almost 60% of the illnesses.

Consumers can protect themselves from getting sick with food poisoning by following tips offered by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, including:
  • Wash hands carefully and often and always wash them after touching raw meat.
  • Use a thermometer when cooking and make sure beef gets to at least 160 degrees, poultry to 180 degrees and fish to at least 140 degrees.
  • Don't put cooked meat or fish back on the same plate that held the raw meat, unless it was washed.
  • Refrigerate any leftovers and don't eat meat, poultry or fish that has been refrigerated uncooked for longer than two days.
  • Don't use outdated foods, packaged foods with a broken seal or cans that are bulging or have a dent.
  • Do not drink water from untreated streams or wells.
FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, geared at modernizing food inspections and hopefully increasing food safety, now sits in the U.S. House awaiting a vote.
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