According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) every year, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans (or approximately 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.
There are dozens of different bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other pathogens that can contaminate raw or improperly prepared food thereby leading to human infection and the transmission of various foodborne diseases. However, the CDC estimates that about 90% of all foodborne illness in this country is caused by the following seven (7) pathogens: Norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium perfrigens, Campylobacter, Listeria, E. coli 0157:H7, and Toxoplasma.
Mary Heersink knows what it’s like to watch an extremely ill child almost die from E. coli contamination. When her son, Damion Heersink was 11 years old, he attended a Boy Scout campout and ate a quarter-sized piece of uncooked hamburger. Damion’s hamburger was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, a particularly virulent but not uncommon bacteria that is caused by fecal contamination of meat, and aggravated by the grinding process that produces hamburger. Damion Heersink was in an intensive care unit at a pediatric hospital for 7 weeks. Because of his illness, Damion lost 30 percent of his lung tissue and the lining of his heart. His immune system was shattered, leaving him at a constant risk of infection. His verbal ability was impaired, his kidney function limited, and he will be susceptible to hypertension later in life.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends the following:
- Wash your hands and work surfaces before, during, and after preparing food. Germs can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, cutting boards, and countertops.
- Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from ready-to-eat foods. Use separate cutting boards and keep raw meat away from other foods in your shopping cart and refrigerator.
- Cook food to the right internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer.
- Keep your refrigerator 40°F or below. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking (or within 1 hour if food is exposed to a temperature above 90°F, like in a hot car).