Food-Bourne Illnesses

May 5, 2011
There is a killer on the loose, claiming the lives of 3000 Americans each year. It’s around you 24-7, and there is no way to avoid it. It’s your food! One day, you could be chowing down on your favorite burger, only later to find out you have been contaminated with a serious illness. 76 million people experience food-borne illnesses each year (Food Safety CQ Researcher). Do not be a bad apple; help the cause for food safety. Although improving food safety may be costly, streams of people are becoming ill, and the United States is not doing enough to prevent infected foods from being imported into our nation.

Many people in the United States, and around the world, become sick with food-borne illnesses. An astonishing 325,000 people are hospitalized and 5,000 die each year as a result of food illnesses in the United States alone (Food Safety). Now, you are probably wondering what a food illness is. During preparation and storage, bacteria and microorganisms can infect foods (Food Safety). As a result, when people eat foods the organisms make there way into the human body, and take over the insides. There are many different illnesses, each of which typically infects specific foods. Salmonellosis is found in undercooked eggs, poultry, meat, fish, and unpasteurized milk. Campylobacteriosis is found in untreated water. E. Coli bacteria is present in beef and has symptoms of kidney failure and intestinal bleeding (Food Safety). It has led to deaths in mainly infants and the elderly. Listeriosis is a disease that kills a boggling 30 percent of its cases (Food Safety). As well as bacteria, be on the look out for chemicals in your food. PCB’s and metals lead to cancer and nerve disorders (Food safety). Sarah Lewis spent hours in the ER undergoing emergency surgery, after eating a food product containing salmonella. For weeks she was on antibiotics and still experiencing symptoms (Food Safety CQ Researcher).

Currently there are not enough strict inspections being preformed by the FDA to protect people from these illnesses. In 2009, only 1.5% of millions of nonmeat food products were inspected (Food Safety CQ Researcher). This means we are allowing more than 98% of all nonmeat products to go unchecked. These same products may contain toxins as well as deadly illnesses. Stephanie Smith was paralyzed after eating a hamburger laden with food-borne bacteria. Before the catastrophe, she was a young dance teacher (Food Safety CQ Researcher). Further back in history, food safety posed an even bigger issue. Arsenic was in candy, poison in beer, and sheep brains in milk (Food Safety CQ Researcher). With this knowledge, if you do not think that is crazy, then imagine American’s selling pork infected with known cholera and worms (Food Safety CQ Researcher). Finally, people are beginning to scream for reform. People like Upton Sinclair exposed this truth to the public through his book The Jungle. In three states, in 1997, an outbreak of hepatitis A terrorized hundreds of high school students and teachers who had consumed Mexican strawberries (Food Safety CQ Researcher). Does this mean that we can’t even trust the food being served in our schools? Restaurants, supermarkets and public places all contain infected foods. There is a hole in the system that allows this to happen. There is clearly not enough being done by our government.

Some critics argue increasing inspections would waist taxpayer dollars and put a huge burden on small business food producers. Slaughterhouses have inspectors on premise everyday yet meat and poultry still account for one half of food illnesses (Food Safety CQ Researcher). Even though there is a point, that if increasing inspections prevented at least one outbreak, it would be saving thousands of people from becoming seriously ill or dying. This would end up saving money in lawsuits and hospital expenses. New scientific standards by the FDA will make foods safer. Currently, less than one percent of imported food is inspected (Food Safety CQ Researcher). This is astonishing, allowing incredible room for improvement. It’s just selfish not to support food safety after numerous cases of our citizens dying or becoming extremely ill from something that could have been prevented. They say food regulation hurts small business, they are wrong! What hurts small business is market failure, which is caused by consumers not buying, recalled products contaminated with deadly illnesses (Food Safety CQ Researcher). By slightly increasing taxpayer dollars to enable more inspections which in turn would protect their food from certain illnesses being sold in products, whereas small businesses cannot do this on their own. Government assistance would help small businesses prosper by selling healthy products contamination free.

A solution can be to update and strengthen mandatory standards. Already the FDA has begun to make restrictions, such as making it mandatory to put warnings on egg cartons about salmonella (Food Bourne Illness). After every outbreak, a new regulation is made to secure the safety of the people. This is a huge problem. We must be proactive and make regulations prior to bad incidences rather than after. Recently in 2009, peanuts contained with Salmonella killed numerous people (Food Safety CQ Researcher). This is when regulations begin to happen and this is why I believe regulations should continue to get stronger because there is always room for improvement. In 1993, four children were killed and thousands of others sickened by hamburgers contaminated with E. Coli (Food Safety CQ Researcher). This is proving such regulation is not going on; otherwise such outbreaks would not occur. It can be always be changed to create stricter laws; just be the one to help spread awareness. Another solution in the future could be to buy organic foods or GMO’s (genetically modified organisms), which could also prevent the outbreaks of these illnesses. With these solutions people will not have to be paranoid and scared of what foods they are putting into their mouths. Be aware of what’s in your food, cook foods fully and never mix finished foods with uncooked foods.

The United States is not doing enough to prevent food illnesses from being imported, even though its expensive, masses of people have become sick from these foods. With thousands of people becoming ill, it’s important to do something about it. If what you care about is saving lives, then become a supporter of food safety. Go out and spread awareness, teach people how to cook properly and vote for a representative that is willing to strengthen reform for food safety.

Work Cited
“Background on Healthy Living.” Do Something. Web. 03 Feb. 2010
"Food-Borne Illness; U.S. FDA Proposes in-lid Labeling for Eggs." Medical Letter
on the CDC & FDA. 12 Jun. 2005: 89. eLibrary Science. Web. 04 Feb 2011. <>.
"Food Safety." Current Issues: Macmillian Social Science Library. Detroit: Gale, 2010.
Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 4 Feb. 2011. <>.
Katel, P. “Food Safety.” CQ Researcher, 20, 1037-1060. Web. 02 Feb. 2010

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