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Food Poisoning Risk Increases at a U.S. Restaurant

Update Date: Apr 09, 2014 10:54 AM EDT

In a new report conducted by a non-profit group, researchers found that contracting food poisoning is more common in a restaurant setting as opposed to a home setting. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which is based in Washington, analyzed data on outbreaks involving Botulism, Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, hepatitis A or Listeria. They concluded that Americans who eat out are two times more likely to get food poisoning in comparison to Americans who eat food made at home.

For this study, the researchers reviewed the data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The data spanned from 2002 through to 2011 and included a total of 10,409 outbreaks. Out of this large number, only 3,933 outbreaks were considered to be solved. A solved case meant that the investigators had identified the specific food and pathogen responsible for the illness. The 3,933 cases were tied to 98,399 illnesses.

The researchers focused only on the solved cases. Over the 10-year period, they found that there were more than 1,610 outbreaks that occurred in restaurants. These outbreaks were tied to sickening over 28,000 people. Within the same time frame, the researchers found that 893 outbreaks that sickened around 13,000 people occurred within the home setting. The researchers believe that these numbers could actually be higher since many cases go unreported. 

"Underreporting of outbreaks has reached epidemic proportions," Caroline Smith DeWaal, the CSPI food safety director, said reported by UPI. "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."

The report, "Outbreak Alert! 2014," can be accessed here.

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