Time to dust out those slow cookers because eating out at restaurants is not as safe as it used to be. According to a new study conducted by the Center for Science in the Public interest, people are twice as likely to get food poisoning from eating at a restaurant than from eating at home.
The research follows food poisoning outbreaks over the last ten years from 2002 to 2011. The data included breakouts for Botulism, Salmonella, Hepatitis A, E. coli 0157:H7, and Listeria. The results show that there were more than 1,610 cases of food poisoning in restaurants and over 28,000 people became sick from eating out at the restaurants where these outbreaks occurred. Only 893 outbreaks happened when people cooked at home, affecting only 13,000 people. The study also finds that 1 in 6 people, or 48 million people in the United States alone suffer from a foodborne illness every year. 128,000 people are hospitalized and a staggering 3,000 people actually die from the illness.
The Center of Science in the Public Interest conducted another study comparing poultry and meat food poisoning incidents. They found that the media usually reports on meat-related food poisoning, but seafood, packaged foods, and fresh produce was actually twice as responsible for many of the outbreaks the study followed.
Even though eating out at a restaurant puts people at risk to be twice as likely to get food poisoning, people may not be aware of this, because food poisoning cases are severely underreported. The study also found that there was a 42 percent decrease in reporting foodborne illness, and fewer outbreaks were reported last year to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Caroline Smith DeWaal is a food safety director for the Center of Science in the Public Interest. DeWaal confirms that underreporting of food poisoning outbreaks has reached epidemic amounts. DeWaal stresses that the details of each outbreak are important to investigators because it helps them gain valuable information and make safer food policies for the public.
When food poisoning outbreaks are underreported, they cannot be solved and fixed in the future. During the study, out of the 10,409 cases researched, only 3,933 cases of the outbreaks were considered solved. A solved case means that the investigator was able to identify the specific pathogen and food that was responsible for the sickness. These 3,933 cases of outbreak caused 98,399 people to become ill.
Senior food safety attorney for the Center of Science in the Public Interest, Sarah Klein, confirms that people are twice as likely to get sick with food poisoning from eating at restaurants than eating at home. Klein says that this data dismisses the myth that people would not get sick if they only cooked their food properly. Restaurants have much more to deal with due to the large number of people they have to serve. Food may be left sitting out too long in warm temperatures, compared to at home, where it is usually prepared much quicker. Time to break out your favorite recipe book and eat in tonight.
Opinion by Sara Petersen