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Food scare has some worried about supply

Disease News: USA

Image: Micro-organismes, E. Coli
March 03, 2007

With all the recent publicity about outbreaks of food-borne illness, consumers may be wondering whether anything is safe to eat anymore. Contaminants are cropping up in products that are supposedly wholesome: peanut butter, fresh spinach, even organic baby food. E. coli comes from fecal matter, so theoretically it should not be a problem with plant-based foods. But crops can become contaminated if they are adjacent to areas where livestock are kept. Without an overhaul of the agricultural system,it will be difficult to prevent this sort of thing from happening. Consumers should expect that any type of fresh produce carries the possibility of contamination. "We're eating more raw produce, so there's more exposure to foods that have a higher risk." Consumers need to take more responsibility for their own health, because there are fewer watchdogs to oversee the nation's food supply. An investigation by the Associated Press last month showed that FDA food safety inspections decreased 47 percent between 2003 and 2006, and safety tests on U.S.-produced food dropped by almost 75 percent. "Expect more outbreaks in the future, because the U.S. is importing more and more of its produce from countries that are far less sanitary than ours." The FDA inspects less than 1 percent of our imported food. If the trend continues, Americans may need to reassess their assumption that the food supply is safe. "When you travel to a developing country, the only way to avoid illness is to cook all food before eating it. If you are susceptible to illness, you might want to consider doing that even if you live in the United States."


What is salmonella?
Salmonella is a bacteria that causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days.
Is it deadly?
Most people recover without treatment, but in some cases the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized and treated with antibiotics.
How is it transmitted?
By eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal, and are often of animal origin. Foods such as beef, poultry, milk or eggs are usual culprits, but all foods, including vegetables, may become contaminated.

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