July 19, 2018

Consumers Can Help Solve Food Poisoning Outbreaks

Have you ever wondered how food poisoning outbreaks are solved? Consumers play a key role, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here’s how you can help.

When you are sick follow these steps. You may help solve the next food poisoning outbreak.

Contact the health department. If you think you have food poisoning, contact your local or state health department and let them know. When public health officials can track clusters of people with similar symptoms and exposures, it helps them to identify potential outbreaks.

See your doctor. Your doctor can order stool samples and blood tests that can determine if you have an infection from E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria PFGE Explained with CDC Infographicor other foodborne bacteria. A Pulsed-field Electrophoresis test determines the genetic fingerprint of the bacteria that sickened you. This fingerprint is uploaded to the PulseNet database,  a network of local, state and federal labs, where they may be matched with others.

Write down what you ate and where you ate it. A food diary that lists everything you can remember eating in the days before you started to become ill can help public health officials identify clusters of illness. Remember to gather and save receipts from the grocery store or restaurant.  It’s also important to write down any contact with pets or animals you had contact with before you got sick.

When you are not sick, follow these steps.

Keep your food receipts. Save receipts from the grocery store and from restaurants. This can help you remember what you ate.

With your permission, records from your shopper card or grocery store loyalty program can give public health investigators information on foods and brands involved in illness clusters.

Freeze food in its original packaging. Or, if you are dividing it up before freezing it, keep the label with it.

If there is an outbreak, a public health official may call you. They interview sick people and healthy people and compare the things they ate to try to narrow down possible foods that have been contaminated. By taking the time to participate,  you can help with the investigation and prevent others from getting sick.

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