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Important points to know about food-borne illnesses and recalls

Reports of serious instances of food poisoning and recalls of common supermarket foods have had people in Tennessee and across the country on edge. If something as popular and simple as a salad can carry a food-borne illness that can put consumers in the hospital or kill them, who is safe? After all, it is not usually possible to know if food is contaminated before eating it.

Most people will remember the recent recalls of romaine lettuce in certain areas, which culminated in 89 hospitalizations for salmonella and five deaths. More recently, pre-cut melons were deemed responsible for another salmonella outbreak that hospitalized 34 people and affected at least 70. As the Chicago Tribune reports, it is not easy to track down the source of contamination, as commercial foods pass through many hands, from the farm to processing plants to store shelves.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reassuring people that there are not necessarily more food-related illness outbreaks than in the past, but better methods have been developed to detect and track the sources of the outbreaks. At home, consumers can better protect themselves by washing their hands, keeping their food preparation surfaces and implements clean, cooking food to the proper temperatures, refrigerating perishables and not cross-contaminating raw meat products with fruits and vegetables.

Consumers may reduce their chances of getting a food-borne illness by taking precautions, but it’s much more difficult to prevent an illness when the food is contaminated by outside sources, such as in a restaurant or manufacturing or handling companies. The responsible company may be held liable for compensation.

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