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Foodborne Illness
International Encyclopedia of Hospitality Management. Ed. Abraham Pizam. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier, 2005. p247-249.
Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Foodborne Illness

Foodborne illnesses are diseases transmitted to people through food. 'An outbreak of foodborne illness occurs when a group of people consume the same contaminated food and two or more of them come down with the same illness' (CDC, 2004). Table 1 contains a list of common foodborne-illness pathogens, along with their sources, symptoms, and methods of prevention.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that over 76 million people in the United States are sickened with a foodborne illness each year. Of those cases, over 300,000 require hospitalization and about 5000 result in death (Mead et al., 1999, as reported by the CDC). Worldwide, the numbers are suspected to be much higher; however, because of variations in reporting methods or lack of reporting altogether, it is difficult to get an accurate estimate of the true magnitude of the problem. Table 2 breaks down by percentage of total infections the pathogens responsible for making people sick.

Development and implementation of an effective HACCP program (Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points) by the operator may significantly reduce the risk of an outbreak of foodborne illness. In addition, food handlers must be thoroughly trained and constantly retrained in proper food safety and sanitation procedures. Food Safety Update (2001) offers five basic tips to increase the effectiveness of training programs. These include:

  • Promote participation: Get employees involved in the training—the more interactively, the better.
  • Make it relevant: People prefer listening to what's real over what's theoretical. Encourage storytelling; everyone has one.
  • Offer rewards: What gets measured gets done. Create incentives that encourage people to do what's right.
  • Link food safety to performance: Assess employees' knowledge of food safety and sanitation during the review process and reward them accordingly.
  • Lead by example: Walk the talk. Managers must always provide the model they want their employees to emulate.

Beyond instituting meaningful training as a means of illness prevention, foodservice operators should encourage the development of good personal hygiene habits among those who handle food. Proper hand washing (which includes the use of soap, a nail brush, and at least 20 seconds of time) is one of the simplest, yet most effective, methods of stopping the transference of Page 248  |  Top of Article
Table 1 Common foodborne illness pathogens

Table 1 Common foodborne illness pathogens CDC (2004)
disease-causing pathogens from hands to food. 'Clean' (free of visible dirt) and 'sanitary' (free of disease-causing pathogens) are two very important words when it comes to protecting the public from foodborne illness.

Table 1 Common foodborne illness pathogens
Pathogen Source Symptoms/Onset Prevention
Source: CDC (2004)
Norwalk-like virus Shellfish, beef, chicken, pork, salads, dressings, infected worker Diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever; 10-51 hours Thorough cooking, rapid chilling, proper hand washing, hold at below 40 °F (4 °C) or above 140 °F (60 °C)
Campylobacter Raw milk, uncooked chicken, raw hamburger, water Nausea, cramps, headache, fever, diarrhea; 1-10 days Thorough cooking, use boiled/treated water
Salmonella Undercooked poultry, eggs or foods containing such; meat, dairy products Abdominal pain, diarrhea, chills, fever, vomiting, cramps; 6-72 hours Thorough cooking; clean/sanitized hands, utensils, surfaces; prompt refrigeration
Clostridium perfringens Soups, stews, gravies held at warm temperatures Nausea, vomiting, pain, diarrhea; 6-24 hours Thorough cooking, rapid chilling, hold at below 40 °F (4 °C) or above 140 °F (60 °C)
Giardia lamblia Contaminated water, infected worker Sudden diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting; 1-3 days Use boiled/treated water, proper hand washing
Escherichia coli Contaminated ground beef; unpasteurized juice, milk, cider; water Cramps, bloody diarrhea, fever, vomiting; 12-72 hours Cook ground beef to 160 °F (71 °C); consume pasteurized products; boiled/treated water; clean/sanitized hands, utensils, surfaces
Staphylococcus Meats, salads containing proteins, sauces, reheated foods Nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea; 1-6 hours Thorough cooking, hold at below 40 °F (4 °C) or bove 140 °F (60 °C), proper hand washing, open sores properly covered
Shigella Moist foods, dairy products, salads, water, infected worker Diarrhea, fever, vomiting, cramps; 1-7 days Use boiled/treated water; clean/sanitized hands, utensils, surfaces
Listeria Unwashed vegetables, unpasteurized dairy products, improperly processed meats Flu-like symptoms with fever and nausea, pregnancy interruption; 4 days to 3 weeks Thorough cooking, use pasteurized products, wash produce
Hepatitis A virus Infected worker, water, seafood from polluted waters Nausea, abdominal pain, weakness/discomfort, fever Proper hand washing, use boiled/treated water, use reputable suppliers

Finally, it should be noted that a foodborne illness does not have to affect many people in order to be considered an 'outbreak.' In fact, an outbreak is defined as an incidence of foodborne illness that involves two or more people who eat a Page 249  |  Top of Article
Table 2 Estimated percentages of foodborne pathogens leading to illness in the United States

Table 2 Estimated percentages of foodborne pathogens leading to illness in the United States Mead et al. (1999), as reported by the Centers for Disease Control
common food, which is confirmed as the source of the illness through laboratory analysis (National Restaurant Association, 1992). The only exceptions, which qualify an outbreak on the basis of only a single incidence, are those that result from botulism or a chemical-caused outbreak.

Table 2 Estimated percentages of foodborne pathogens leading to illness in the United States
Pathogen Percentage
Source: Mead et al. (1999), as reported by the Centers for Disease Control
Norwalk-like virus 66.7
Campylobacter 14.2
Salmonella 9.7
Clostridium perfringens 1.8
Giardia lamblia 1.4
Escherichia coli 1.3
Staphylococcus 1.3
Shigella 0.6
Listeria <0.1
Hepatitis A virus <0.1


CDC (Centers for Disease Control) (2004) Foodborne Illness. Available at . Accessed 11 March 2004.

Food Safety Update (2001) Five basic training tips. Food Safety Update, 13.

Mead, P., Slutsker, L., Dietz, V., McCaig, L., Bresee, J., Shapiro, C., Griffin, P., and Tauxe, R. (1999) Food-related illness and death in the United States. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 5 (5). Available at . Accessed 21 August 2002.

National Restaurant Association (1992) Applied Foodservice Sanitation. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

                    NANCY SWANGER

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition) 
Swanger, Nancy. "Foodborne Illness." International Encyclopedia of Hospitality Management, edited by Abraham Pizam, Elsevier, 2005, pp. 247-249. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 17 June 2019.

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3033900292

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