Pathogens in Food Although the US has one of the safest food supplies in the w

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Pathogens in Food
Although the US has one of the safest food supplies in the world, Americans still suffer from foodborne illnesses.  According to the CDC, an estimated 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States.
What causes foodborne illness?
To get sick from a foodborne illness, we have to eat foods or beverages that are contaminated with harmful agents.  These are mostly caused by disease-causing microbes, or pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, or molds.  Think E. Coli, salmonella,  and norovirus (on cruise ships), which are usually the ones that we hear about in the media. This foodborne illness chart
Actions lists the most common pathogens, their incubation period and symptoms. As you go through this chart, think about strategies to prevent these diseases in an ECE setting, which would also apply in a home setting.
Now, pathogens are live microorganisms that when ingested, will continue to grow and multiply in our intestines, thereby causing an infection.  The good news is that these can be destroyed by cooking, which is why cooking food to the appropriate temperature is very important in preventing foodborne illness.  However, in some cases, it’s not ingesting a pathogen that causes illness, instead it’s consuming a chemical or a toxin, which cannot necessarily be killed by cooking.  Examples of chemical hazards are fertilizers, sanitizers, cleaning agents that foods may come in contact with. Toxins may be something that is naturally present in the food, or it’s produced by bacteria or fungi.  An example would be E. Coli O157:H7 which produces the Shiga toxin, which can be deadly. 
How does food become contaminated?
What is the role of government?
The government sets standards and regulations for how food should be handled.  There are several government agencies: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), US Dept. or Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that regulate the use of additives, agricultural chemicals, inspect farms, food processing and storage facilities, monitor domestic and imported foods for contamination, and investigate outbreaks of foodborne illness, with the most recent one being the recall of red onions for possible contamination with salmonella. 
For more information on food recalls, visit The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection ServiceLinks to an external site.
What is the role of food manufacturers and retailers?
The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system helps prevent foodborne illness.  At every step of food production, processing, and transport, potential sources of contamination are identified and checkpoints are established to  prevent illness.  These critical control points, such as controlling how food is stored and how it’s cooked, are monitored and corrected, if needed, to prevent or eliminate contamination.  More on the HACCP system in the next section.
What should we, as consumers, do to prevent foodborne illness?
Even though government, food manufacturers, and retailers have a responsibility in ensuring a safe food supply, once food is in our homes, it’s ultimately up to us to practice safe food handling.  In this week’s discussion board assignment you will have to consider your own food preparation habits and determine how well you’re protecting your family against foodborne illness.  In addition to our textbook, the section on what consumers can doLinks to an external site. and the additional videos in this module go over how to minimize contamination risks.

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