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Most Cases of Foodborne Illness Go Unreported

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Edmonton, ABAccording to the 2/18/10 Edmonton issue of 24 Hours, a lot of food poisoning goes unreported. And when that happens, says Nyall Hislop, a senior advisor for Alberta Health Services Food Program in Edmonton, more people get sick.

Hislop, an inspector with 13 years in the trenches, noted that 390 suspected cases of food poisoning were investigated in the city of Edmonton last year. Yet for every report made, there were several cases that never came to light at all. In fact, Hislop says, some experts estimate that only one to five percent of individuals who suspect food poisoning ever bother to report it at all.

What compromises the reporting system even more is the fact that so few food samples are preserved for testing. As gross as it may seem, saving a vomit or stool sample will help verify the presence of foodborne pathogens—but few people bother to do so.

For most healthy individuals, the effects of food poisoning last about a day or two. Many healthy individuals do not take the time to report a suspected case of foodborne illness. Some misinterpret symptoms of food poisoning as the flu.

The problem, says Hislop, is that foodborne illness can pose a serious threat to children, the elderly and those with weakened or compromised immune systems.

Restaurants and commercial establishments owe it to the consumer to operate within required guidelines and practices for food preparation. Food manufacturers are required to ensure that ingredient processing and packaging protocols and sound and are followed. Most, but not all, take that responsibility seriously.

It is often up to the consumer to wave the red flag when necessary.

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