The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is tasked with ensuring the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products is safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged.
Foodborne Illness in the United States
When certain disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites contaminate food, they can cause foodborne illness. Another word for such a bacteria, virus, or parasite is “pathogen.” Foodborne illness, often called food poisoning, is an illness that comes from food you eat.
The food supply in the United States is among the safest in the world – but it can still be a source of infection for all persons.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million persons get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne infection and illness in the United States each year. Many of these people are children, older adults, or have weakened immune systems and may not be able to fight infection normally.
Since foodborne illness can be serious – or even fatal – it is important for you to know and practice safe food-handling behaviors to help reduce your risk of getting sick from contaminated food.
Food Safety: It’s Especially Important for You
As a person with diabetes, you are not alone – there are many people in the United States with this chronic disease. Diabetes can affect various organs and systems of your body, causing them not to function properly, and making you more susceptible to infection. For example:
Your immune system, when functioning properly, readily fights off harmful bacteria and other pathogens that cause infection. With diabetes, your immune system may not readily recognize harmful bacteria or other pathogens. This delay in the body’s natural response to foreign invasion places a person with diabetes at increased risk for infection.
Your gastrointestinal tract, when functioning properly, allows the foods and beverages you consume to be normally digested. Diabetes may damage the cells that create stomach acid and the nerves that help your stomach and intestinal tract move the food throughout the intestinal tract. Because of this damage, your stomach may hold on to the food and beverages you consume for a longer period, allowing harmful bacteria and other pathogens to grow.
Additionally, your kidneys, which work to cleanse the body, may not be functioning properly and may hold on to harmful bacteria, toxins, and other pathogens.
A consequence of having diabetes is that it may leave you more susceptible to developing infections – like those that can be brought on by disease-causing bacteria and other pathogens that cause foodborne illness. Should you contract a foodborne illness, you are more likely to have a lengthier illness, undergo hospitalization, or even die.
To avoid contracting a foodborne illness, you must be vigilant when handling, preparing and consuming foods.
Make safe handling a lifelong commitment to minimize your risk of foodborne illness. Be aware that as you age, your immunity to infection naturally is weakened.