November 19, 2001 | By: Aimee D. Heald
LEXINGTON, Ky.

The United States’ food supply is considered to be among the safest in the world. Even so, there are still opportunities for foodborne illnesses to thrive if conditions are right. 

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration there are more than 76 million cases of foodborne illness each year. With recent outbreaks of hepatitis A in other states that have sickened several hundred people, consumers are wondering if the situation could have been prevented.

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Extension Food Technologist Joe O’Leary said good sanitation is the key to preventing foodborne illness, especially hepatitis A.

“Foodborne hepatitis A is caused by poor sanitary conditions in food preparation areas and by poor personal hygiene of food preparers,” he said. “Good sanitation is especially important for fruits and vegetables that are eaten raw.”

Another concern is food prepared by people who are sick with intestinal problems. O’Leary said they should not prepare food for others because they often shed harmful bacteria for more than a month after they have recovered.

“Always wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing food,” he said. “Unwashed hands are the most common cause of this type of foodborne illness.”

Symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, and yellowing of the skin and eyeballs (jaundice). A person infected with the disease can spread the disease two weeks before and two weeks after symptoms appear. Hepatitis A usually does not have long-term chronic effects like other forms of hepatitis and it is usually not fatal.

“Remember, good personal hygiene and proper sanitation can prevent foodborne illness,” O’Leary said.

Contact: 

Writer: Aimee D. Heald 859-257-4736, ext. 267
Source: Joe O'Leary