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Acquiring Foodborne Infection from Home-Prepared Meals

01/23/2019

A recent survey conducted in Scotland demonstrated that 40 percent of respondents who suffered an episode of foodborne illness during the previous year acquired the infection from a home-cooked meal.  This represents approximately 17,000 cases of foodborne illness annually in Scotland.  The survey was conducted during December and involved 1,000 adults.

 

Home food preparation practices which contributed to infection included ignoring “use by” dates, failure to wash chopping boards, consumption of undercooked chicken and turkey especially when not using a thermometer.

 

Health authorities in Scotland have now intensified their “Kitchen Crimes” food safety campaign emphasizing 20 safety-related precautions.  The initial “Kitchen Crimes” campaign was apparently successful based on responses by consumers who were exposed to publicity and changed their cooking practices.

 

It would be interesting to determine the incidence rate of foodborne infection from home cooking.  Generally foodborne outbreaks involve a number of cases over a limited time resulting in capture by the FoodNet database or posted on <www.iwaspoisoned.com>.  Foodborne infection associated with restaurants, QSRs and institutions are usually subject to some form of microbiological confirmation of the diagnosis especially if patients are hospitalized. 

Unfortunately family-confined outbreaks are invariably missed due to small numbers involved.  Regrettably mild home-associated cases are not reported other than infection with highly pathogenic organisms such as Listeria, a virulent Salmonella or an STEC is involved. 

 

This is the basis of the CDC using a multiplication factor when evaluating the number of cases of salmonellosis based on diagnosed and confirmed cases.  The fact that CDC regional laboratories are now using PCR and have the advantages of almost real-time information from FoodNet allows recognition of limited outbreaks.  A case in point was a Salmonella Braenderup outbreak during late 2017 and early 2018 that involved less than 60 cases over a six-month period in a region comprising mid-Atlantic and northeast states.