Foodborne Illness Prevention

Foodborne Disease Safety

Foodborne illnesses are contracted from eating contaminated food or beverages. These illnesses include foodborne intoxications and infections, and are caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, toxins, metals, and prions. Symptoms of foodborne illness range from mild gastroenteritis to life-threatening neurologic, hepatic, and renal syndromes.

Both customers who dine at restaurants, as well as employees who consume restaurant food during break or meal time, are at risk of developing foodborne illnesses if the food is contaminated. Employers can reduce the risk of contamination by recognizing, controlling, and preventing the hazards associated with foodborne illness. 

Hazard Recognition

Most foodborne illnesses are infections, caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can be foodborne. Other foodborne illnesses are poisonings, caused by harmful toxins or chemicals that have contaminated the food--for example, poisonous mushrooms.

These different illnesses have many different symptoms, so there is no one "syndrome" that is foodborne illness. However, the microbe or toxin enters the body through the gastrointestinal tract, and often causes the first symptoms there, so nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea are common symptoms in many foodborne illnesses.

Hazard Control and Prevention

Employers can prevent the risk of foodborne illness by observing precautions that prevent contamination from or exposure to microbes and toxins. These safety measures include:

  • Ensuring food is cooked at the proper temperature.
  • Ensuring employees wash hands and surfaces often.
  • Ensuring that foods requiring refrigeration are promptly refrigerated.
  • Ensuring that raw meats are separated from other foods.

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