Katharine Kelly reports that Tulsans put a great deal of trust in the restaurants, fast food emporia, and assorted eating establishments they frequent. And that’s all well a good, for the most part. But unless you would just rather not think about what it is that you are being served on that hot, steaming plate of organic matter that the waitress just served, read no further.
If you are just a bit curious, however, about what precautions are being taken by your local food service establishments and the state health department you might g-e this piece a reading.
How safe is the food you eat-at home or in a restaurant? The General Accounting Office in a May 1996 report stated that there are between 6.5 million and 81 million cases of foodborne illness a year. The wide range of cases is because of the uncertainty about the number that go unreported. One in every four Americans will get a foodborne illness each year, one in 1,000 Americans will be hospitalized each year. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates the number of deaths per year from foodborne illness to be 9,100.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that consumers spend 43 cents of every food dollar eating out. Also, an increasing amount of food prepared away from the home is then taken home for consumption, thus creating new challenges for mishandling and food contamination.
Adding to this challenge is that fact that microorganisms continue to adapt and mutate, often increasing their degree of virulence. For example, in 1990, the U.S. Public Health Service identified E. Coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Campylobacter jejuni as the four most serious foodborne pathogens in the U.S. because of the severity and estimated number of illnesses they cause. Of these, Campylobacter, Listeria and E. coli were unrecognized as sources of food poisoning 20 years ago.
Bacteria is a fact of life. It is all around us. It occurs naturally in many of the foods we eat each day. These contaminants can be of microbiological origin, such as toxins produced by bacteria or they can be part of the food’s normal growth process.
Prevention depends on efforts from farm to table to reduce food contamination. Tulsa is not immune to bacteria outbreaks, and in part because of the check system of the Health Department, the chances for foodborne illnesses to happen are reduced.