CDC estimates that each year roughly 48 million people gets sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. The 2011 estimates provide the most accurate picture of which foodborne bacteria, viruses, microbes ("pathogens") are causing the most illnesses in the United States. According to the 2011 estimates, the most common foodborne illnesses are caused by norovirus and by the bacteria Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter.
There are many opportunities for food to become contaminated as it is produced and processed.
How Does intestinal material get on your meat ?
Our process removes that possibility.
Many foodborne microbes are present in healthy animals (usually in their intestines) that are raised for food. Meat and poultry carcasses can become contaminated during slaughter by contact with small amounts of intestinal contents.
- Similarly, fresh fruits and vegetables can be contaminated if they are washed or irrigated with water that is contaminated with animal manure or human sewage.
- Oysters and other filter feeding shellfish can concentrate Vibrio bacteria that are naturally present in sea water, or other microbes such as norovirus that are present in human sewage dumped into the sea.
Later in food processing, other foodborne microbes can be introduced from infected humans who handle the food, or by cross contamination from some other raw agricultural product:
- For example, Shigella bacteria, hepatitis A virus and norovirus can be introduced by the unwashed hands of food handlers who are themselves infected.
- In the kitchen, microbes can be transferred from one food to another food by using the same knife, cutting board, or other utensil to prepare both, without washing the surface or utensil in between.
- A food that is fully cooked can become recontaminated if it touches other raw foods or drippings from raw foods that contain pathogens.
The way that food is handled after it is contaminated can also make a difference in whether or not an outbreak occurs:
- Many bacterial microbes need to multiply to a larger number before enough are present in food to cause disease. Given warm moist conditions and an ample supply of nutrients, one bacterium that reproduces by dividing itself every half hour can produce 17 million progeny in 12 hours. As a result, lightly contaminated food left out overnight can be highly infectious by the next day.
- If the food were refrigerated promptly, the bacteria would not multiply at all. In general, refrigeration or freezing prevents virtually all bacteria from growing but generally preserves them in a state of suspended animation. This general rule has a few surprising exceptions:
- High salt, high sugar or high acid levels keep bacteria from growing, which is why salted meats, jam, and pickled vegetables are traditional preserved foods.
Microbes are killed by heat.
- If food is heated to an internal temperature above 160°F, or 78°C, for even a few seconds this sufficient to kill parasites, viruses or bacteria, except for the Clostridium bacteria, which produce a heat-resistant form called a spore.
- Clostridium spores are killed only at temperatures above boiling. This is why canned foods must be cooked to a high temperature under pressure as part of the canning process.
- The toxins produced by bacteria vary in their sensitivity to heat.