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How to Prevent Food Illness Bacteria E Coli Listeria Facts

Food Borne Illness Loves Warmth & Wet - Take Extra Care During the Summer Months

Food borne illness is a problem even in the United States with state of the art refrigeration, training and education. Learning about food borne illness is important for the safety of both you and your family and IF you are a restaurant owner or worker, you already know how critical these topics are to the safety of your clients.

Bacteria is the Culprit

Bacteria is the culprit. While not all bacteria is bad, bacteria can quickly grow in certain foods, under certain conditions and present a serious health concern for both children and the elderly along with people with immune deficiencies.

Perishable Food - Sushi - Fish Must Be Fresh



Perishable Food - Surprise - Ice Cream!

perishable food - surprise - ice cream

perishable food - surprise - ice cream

Certain Foods

As the above chart clearly displays certain foods have a higher likelihood of carrying harmful pathogen. "Foods that are high in protein or carbohydrates such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, rice and eggs along with foods with a "neutral" PH which are essentially the fruits and vegetables."

Certain Conditions - Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold

You have heard this one before: Keep hot foods hot, keep cold foods cold. More specifically, "(k)eep hot foods hot (above 60 ° C / 140 ° F) and cold foods cold (below 4 ° C / 40 ° F)."

Top 10 Dangerous Foods

Of the top 10 dangerous foods, the one that surprised me was ice cream! Who would have thought? As a cook and having had the pleasure of even having a ice cream machine for a wedding present - never heard of this one. Very good information to know.

Bacteria in the Soil - Farming

The critical role that farmers play in the equation of food safety cannot be highlighted enough. The government is now mandating better methods to trace the food so that the contamination can be identified and resolved. This is helpful but food safety needs to be highlighted to everyone.

Prevent Food Illness with Training

I try to teach my son about sanitation, especially when handling foods like chicken that could be dangerous. I remind him to wash his hands all the time. When my son cooks with me, he stands on a step stool so he can reach the stove. I teach him about safety and fire.

— Emeril Lagasse


FAT TOM for Food Safety

FAT TOM for food safety colorful poster to remind us how to prevent bacteria to prevent illness

FAT TOM for food safety colorful poster to remind us how to prevent bacteria to prevent illness

76 Million Americans Get Sick & 5,000 Die from Foodborne Illnesses Each Year

"After eating contaminated food, people can develop anything from a short, mild illness, often mistakenly referred to as "food poisoning," to life-threatening disease. CDC estimates that 76 million Americans get sick, more than 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 people die from foodborne illnesses each year." source: United States Center for Disease and Control

United States Most Dangerous Foods


25 outbreaks 3,397 cases of illness - with strawberries taking the lead


31 outbreaks 2,022 cases of illness


31 outbreaks 3,292 cases of illness

Ice Cream

74 outbreaks 2,594 cases of illness (note, "almost half of the outbreaks.occurred in the home where it is likely that undercooked eggs were used..." during the home preparation.


83 outbreaks 2,761 cases of illness "Cheese can often become contaminated during the early state of production, with salmonella being the most common illness contracted."

Scroll to Continue

Leafy Green

363 outbreaks 13,568 cases of illness


352 outbreaks 11, 163 cases of illness


268 outbreaks 2,341 cases of illness


132 outbreaks 3,409 cases of illness


106 outbreaks 3,659 cases of illness


Next generation

And there you have it with leafy green taking the leading role with 13,568 cases of illness.

CBS Food Safety

FAT TOM will help you to remember these valuable terms:

The Iowa State University Extension undertook developing a complete food safety program. It is available on line here:

Free Food Safety Lessons Including Fat Tom

Free Food Safety Lessons

The food safety lessons are broken out into 4 lessons and include clip art and creation of "Fat Tom". The Food Safety Project at Iowa State University Extension goal is to provide consumers with the training and education they need to help minimize their personal and their family's risk from harmful food pathogens. The lessons also provide a clear understanding of how to decrease incidences of foodborne illness by detailing the growth patterns and needs of the harmful pathogens.

One way of learning is a visual with reminders - that is where Fat Tom the food safety turkey can help. FAT TOM will help you to remember these valuable terms:





"As a group, micro-organisms will grow under many different conditions. There are six main factors that can affect the growth of micro-organisms (FAT TOM).


·Micro-organisms grow best in foods that are high in protein or carbohydrates

·Examples – Meat, poultry, seafood, milk, rice and eggs

2.pH (Acid)

·The measure of acidity or alkalinity of a food

·Most disease causing bacteria multiply best at a pH of 5 – 8, which is near the neutral pH of 7.

·Fresh foods such as meat, seafood and milk tend to have a pH of near 7 (neutral)


·Food poisoning micro-organisms can multiply rapidly at temperatures between 4°C / 40°F and 60°C / 140°F. This is known as the Danger Zone. Hazardous foods should spend as little time as possible in the Danger Zone.

·Keep hot foods hot (above 60°C / 140°F) and cold foods cold (below 4°C / 40°F).


·Micro-organisms often need time to grow in the food and they can double in number every 20 minutes under ideal conditions.


·Some micro-organisms will only grow when there is oxygen present in the food or environment (aerobic organisms).

·Some micro-organisms will only grow when there is NO oxygen present in the food or environment (anaerobic organisms).


·Micro-organisms need water to grow and multiply.

·Some micro-organisms can survive when there is little water, but they will not be able to grow very well.

By modifying the environment in and around the food, growth of micro-organisms can be slowed or prevented. For example, changing the amount of acid in a food or adding salt to dry a food can help to prevent micro-organisms from growing.

Some of the principles that can control micro-organisms in food are as follows:

1.Preventing micro-organisms from getting into foods (safe food handling).

2.Preventing the growth of micro-organisms already present in food (time - temperature control).

3.Eliminating harmful micro-organisms by processing the food properly (e.g. proper cooking)." []


Food Safety Music - Microbes Medly with Animation

Food Safety - What You Must Know - Dirty Dozen and Clean 15

Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported:

"The Dirty Dozen





Domestic blueberries


Sweet bell peppers

Spinach, kale and collard greens



Imported grapes


Not all non-organic fruits and vegetables have a high pesticide level. Some produce has a strong outer layer that provides a defense against pesticide contamination. The group found a number of non-organic fruits and vegetables dubbed the "Clean 15" that contained little to no pesticides.

The Clean 15



Sweet corn



Sweet peas


Kiwi fruit






Sweet potatoes

Sweet onions"



NY Department of Health Reports Percent of Pathogens Associated with Foreign Travel

The NY Department of Health reports the travelers who travel beyond our borders the number of pathogens encountered. The graph below is interesting to see the trends of each bacteria.

Wikipedia reports that "Shigellosis, also known as bacillary dysentery in its most severe manifestation, is a food borne illness caused by infection by bacteria of the genus Shigella. Shigellosis rarely occurs in animals other than humans and other primates like monkeys and chimpanzees. The causative organism is frequently found in water polluted with human feces, and is transmitted via the fecal-oral route. The usual mode of transmission is directly person-to-person hand-to-mouth, in the setting of poor hygiene among children.[1] In some strains ten to fifteen (10-15)% of people affected will die. In the developing world, Shigella causes approximately 165 million cases of severe dysentery and more than 1 million deaths each year, mostly in children. Shigella also causes approximately 580,000 cases annually among travelers and military personnel from industrialized countries.[2]"

165 Million Cases of Severe Dysentery and 1 Million Deaths Annually

Knowing the details from wikipedia helps us to better interpret the graph below. The spike in 2001was literally halved in the following year and then also in the year after that. Knowledge is power. Tracking the cases, understanding the source and educating our population both here in the United States and abroad helps of humanity.

Wadsworth Center NY State Department of Health

Wadsworth Center NY State Department of Health

A Complimentary Solution - Food Sanitizers

Food safety is knowledge and training. Knowing that bacteria exists and learning the components of FAT TOM are essential pieces to preventing foodborne illness. As a compliment to sound food safety practices, many chefs are taking an extra level of prevention and care for quality by sanitizing meats and produce. One person mentioned to a friend of mine that she is not able to eat "packaged" lettuce and greens because of the preservatives. Bagged or packaged produce may make it easier for us to consume as we actively seek to eat right and be healthy yet all too often the bagged produce is linked to food borne illness or has preservatives.

Interesting on this note, Lisa on Buzz Science wrote: "My $0.02? I don't want to read any more stories about children or grandparents having kidney failure or even dying from E. coli infection. So I guess I'm all for killing off the bacteria if we can. But part of me thinks, yes, I want safe food, but I also want CLEAN food. Even if eating poop can be made safe, I still don't want to eat poop!"

Beyond Pre-Packaged Foods

CNN report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta that even our fruits and vegetables which are not pre-packaged are a real safety concern. "Most alarming are the fruits and vegetables dubbed the "Dirty Dozen," which contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving. These foods are believed to be most susceptible because they have soft skin that tends to absorb more pesticides."

Kill Bacteria without Chemicals

A food sanitizer that kills bacteria in a natural manner is my choice for sanitized food for myself and my family. On a daily basis, we kill bacteria with a water Ozonator.

Your Thoughts?

What do you think about the issue of food safety? How often do you buy pre-packaged produce? What safety measures are reasonable for restaurants and homes? Knowing the food safety issues, understanding the FAT TOM principles and reading the research from Dr. Gupta on the pesticides on fruits and vegetables.

What should governments around the world be doing?

Do you currently use a water ozonator to protect yourself from bacteria? Have you considered it?


“Not responding is a response - we are equally responsible for what we don't do.”

— Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

Share Your Experiences

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Kelly Kline Burnett


Kelly Kline Burnett (author) from Fontana, WI on March 06, 2015:

Hi Prince Bethel,

Thank you very much! Glad you stopped by.

Prince Bethel from Africa on February 07, 2015:

This is very helpful and insightful. Thanks for sharing this. Voted up!

Kelly Kline Burnett (author) from Fontana, WI on November 03, 2014:

Hi John,

Thank you very much! I worked hard bringing all the facts to light on food poisoning and e Coli and Listeria. Food borne illness is tragic, anything we can do to prevent not just the illness but the deaths is a step forward in helping humanity.

Johnb423 on September 09, 2014:

Good post. I study something more challenging on completely different blogs everyday. It is going to all the time be stimulating to learn content material from different writers and practice somewhat one thing from their store. I cfkkdkdeddca

Kelly Kline Burnett (author) from Fontana, WI on March 02, 2014:


I know food safety is so critical and it is important to all of us. Following the rules starts with learning the rules. You were wise to learn long ago.

Food illness is horrible. I know several work associates who have had bouts of food poisoning and the best definition I have heard is the

knives in the stomach" - oh, my - that completely describes the human body's reaction to food illness. Taking the time to take care can not only prevent illness, it can prevent a death.

Marge on February 25, 2014:

I am glad I learned about food safety years ago. I try to follow all the rules. So far I have not made anyone sick.

Dim Flaxenwick from Great Britain on March 26, 2011:

¨ Fantastic hub. Thank you.

My husband and I worked in a hot country, working with food for many years. The restrictions were severe and that was a good thing. As far as we know over 20 years no-one got sick from any of our food., but I´m sure that was thanks to the ´tests´regularly from the government sanitation department.

Kelly Kline Burnett (author) from Fontana, WI on August 03, 2010:


Wow! That is the ultimate compliment to share with others and my favorite audience - students. Thank you very much!

BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on July 29, 2010:

This is great because I can use it with my students. Well, actually I can share it with everyone! Thanks so much for the information and the great tips. Yay!

Rated up and I'm a big fan now!

Sarika Mehra on June 27, 2010:

very well said ,hope people realize it the earliest what is good and what is bad for them and follow the food safety rules.

Kelly Kline Burnett (author) from Fontana, WI on June 27, 2010:


Thank you very much for your compliment and for stopping by. It is an important subject which all of us need to know a little bit about.

Kelly Kline Burnett (author) from Fontana, WI on June 27, 2010:


Thank you very much for your compliment and for stopping by. It is an important subject which all of us need to know a little bit about.

rajaryanme from Delhi on June 26, 2010:

Very well written article. Thanks for sharing.

Kelly Kline Burnett (author) from Fontana, WI on June 20, 2010:


It is critical information. It changes how I eat and think of food.

MaryRenee on June 19, 2010:

Excellent hub! This topic is so important,thanks for sharing :)

Kelly Kline Burnett (author) from Fontana, WI on June 19, 2010:


Food safety wasn't a topic when I was growing up - these are things I never learned and am learning now - so glad I am able to share my new found knowledge.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 19, 2010:

This is an important hub for anyone with a lot of very important information. Excellent hub.

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