Restaurants most common source of food-borne illness: Survey
Restaurants are the most common source of contaminated food that causes children to fall sick, say scientists who found that very few parents use simple preventive strategies to protect kids from food poisoning outside the home.
One in 10 parents said in a survey that their child got sick from eating spoilt food, according researchers from the University of Michigan in the US. Among parents of children who had gotten sick from spoiled or contaminated food, just a third said that their child had gotten sick from food eaten at their own home.
"In most cases children recover quickly from food poisoning, but in certain cases it can be debilitating," said Gary L Freed, co-director of C S Mott Children's Hospital National Poll. "It's impossible to completely protect children from food borne illness. However, there are strategies to try to reduce the risk of getting sick from eating spoiled or contaminated food," said Freed.
"We found that while parents paid closer attention to food safety in their own home, they were not always as cautious about outside sources," he said. Parents reported putting a lot of effort into food safety in the home. Most parents said they wash their hands before preparing a meal (87 per cent), wash fruits and vegetables before serving (80 per cent), and check the expiration dates on refrigerated food (84 per cent).
If a refrigerated product was more than two days past its expiration date, 57 per cent of parents said they would smell or taste it themselves to see if it was OK to eat, while 43 per cent said they would automatically throw the food away.
If parents heard that a food product in their home had been recalled, almost all would not feed it to their children with 58 per cent reporting they would throw it away and 40 per cent returning it for a refund or replacement. Other sources of kids getting sick from spoiled or contaminated food included school (21 per cent), a friend's house (14 per cent), or at a potluck (11 per cent). Foodborne illness affects more than 75 million people a year, most often caused by toxins, parasites, viruses, and bacteria such as salmonella and E coli.
Food poisoning can occur when germs, either certain bacteria or viruses, contaminate food or drinks. This can happen at many different places in the process as food moves from harvesting to packaging to preparation to serving.
Once contaminated food enters the body, some germs release toxins that can cause diarrhea, vomiting and sometimes fever or muscle aches. Hand washing, keeping cutting boards clean and washed and storing and cooking food at proper temperatures are also important when preparing and serving meals
An increasingly common germ passed on by unwashed hands is the virus, Hepatitis A. Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all children at one year of age and can prevent almost all cases in those immunised.
Symptoms of food poisoning start anywhere from an hour to three days after eating contaminated food. Freed says the most important initial treatment for food poisoning is making sure a child drinks plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
"Contaminated food can make both kids and adults very sick very quickly. For very young children, whose immune systems are not fully developed, this kind of illness can present a greater risk of serious complications," Freed said. "Simple precautions, like checking restaurant inspections and following food safety rules when cooking and storing food, can help keep your family safe," he said.
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