Food poisoning is, unfortunately, common. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses each year. Of those, 128,000 are hospitalized and about 3,000 die.
While there are 31 known pathogens that are known to cause foodborne illness, there are also unspecified agents that not yet identified or have yet to be proven to directly cause food poisoning.
Since roughly 1 in 6 Americans gets sick from food poisoning every year, it’s important to be familiar with the symptoms, treatment, and how to report food poisoning to help prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses.
What are the Symptoms of Food Poisoning?
The most common symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, cramps in the stomach area, and diarrhea. However, symptoms can and often do differ with the various types of foodborne illnesses. More serious complications of foodborne illness can include Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), Guillain-Barré Syndrome, Reactive Arthritis, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), according to the food safety team at The Lange Law Firm. Some of these conditions, including Guillain-Barré Syndrome and IBS, can be life-threatening or leave people suffering with permanent damage.
While anyone can contract a foodborne illness, some groups are more at risk. Pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk of getting food poisoning. If you or a loved one has gotten food poisoning, pay close attention to the symptoms. Most people get better in a few days without medical treatment. Those who suffer from severe symptoms should seek medical attention.
Why it is Important to Report Food Poisoning?
According to Foodsafety.gov, when two or more people become ill from the same contaminated food or drink, it is deemed a foodborne outbreak. Those affected by a foodborne illness after consuming a contaminated food should alert public health agencies; doing so puts health agencies on notice for additional cases.
Reporting food poisoning can assist local public health agencies identify food contamination and remove unsafe food from store shelves and menus. Choosing to report food poisoning can also help health agencies identify where the contaminated food came from and assist in making food safety changes to prevent similar outbreaks in the future.
How to Report Food Poisoning
Reporting food poisoning is simple and can help prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses. The process consists of two main parts:
Visit the Doctor
If your food poisoning is severe, schedule an appointment with your doctor. A doctor will be able to conduct the necessary testing for a foodborne illness diagnosis. Once the type of pathogen has been identified, your doctor will be able to better treat your symptoms.
Report Your Illness
After being diagnosed, you can ask your doctor to report your illness to your local health department on your behalf. You can also report yourself by contacting your local or state health agency! To find your state and local health agencies, you can use this helpful chart.
Depending on your illness and its severity, you can also consult with a food poisoning lawyer. Consumers should be free from consuming contaminated food and water, especially when companies profit from their sales.
Food poisoning is a unpleasant and common illness. While we can’t always protect ourselves from foodborne illness, we can do our part by reporting it to the proper local health departments. At home, you can prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses by washing your hands prior to handling food, ensuring meat and seafood is cooked thoroughly, and avoiding perishable foods that have been sitting out for extended periods of time.