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Study: Most Food Poisoning Occurs in Restaurants

dinner at home
dinner at home
A. Scattergood

You're twice as likely to get food poisoning in a restaurant than from cooking at home, according to a new study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. That includes getting sick from such lovelies as botulism, salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, hepatitis A and listeria.

The group analyzed "solved" outbreaks over a 10-year period (2002-2011). They found that more than 1,610 outbreaks in restaurants were responsible for sickening over 28,000 people, compared to 893 outbreaks sickening roughly 13,000 people in private homes.

One in 6 people in the U.S., or about 48 million, suffer from foodborne illness every year, according to CSPI. As many as 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die as a consequence.
Surprisingly, fresh produce, seafood and packaged foods (regulated by the Food and Drug Administration) were responsible for twice as many of the solved outbreaks analyzed in their research as meat and poultry (regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture).

"The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in January 2011, was designed to give the agency the authority it needs to conduct more frequent inspections of food processing facilities, particularly higher-risk ones," the CSPI says in its report  "But the agency has been slow to finalize a number of complex regulations - and Congress, in turn, has been unwilling to provide sufficient funds for the FDA to bring the reform law into full effect."

The CSPI also says there has been a decrease in the reporting of foodborne illness outbreaks - 42 percent fewer outbreaks were reported by states to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2011 than were reported in 2002. "Fewer reported outbreaks, though, doesn't necessarily mean that fewer Americans are getting sick," the CSPI says. "The recent recession, influenza pandemics, and post-9/11 bioterrorism investments have all diverted state public health budgets and attention away from identifying outbreaks and figuring out their causes."

"Underreporting of outbreaks has reached epidemic proportions," says Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI food safety director. "Yet the details gleaned from outbreak investigations provide essential information so public health officials can shape food safety policy and make science-based recommendations to consumers. Despite the improvements in food safety policy in the past decade, far too many Americans still are getting sick, being hospitalized, or even dying due to contaminated food."

No one would blame you if you decided to eat in tonight.

See also: More Sickened by Foster Farms Chicken


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