The CDC reports that researchers have identified over 250 foodborne diseases. It is impossible to know about all of these sicknesses, but you should know about the 6 most common foodborne illnesses, known as the “Big 6”—Salmonella, Salmonella typhi (Typhoid), Shigella, E. coli, Norovirus, and Hepatitis A. Without proper food safety policies and procedures, foodborne pathogens can easily make their way into the food you are serving and infect your customers.
You can get more in-depth information about each of these foodborne pathogens in our pdf guide. But here are the basics of what you need to know in order to prevent your customers and staff.
Carried naturally by farm animals, it affects raw food from animal origins such as meats, eggs, and milk. It also affects vegetables that have come into contact with animal feces. It can survive freezer temperatures, but can be killed off at temperatures above 131°F.
Typhoid is the most severe foodborne illness and is a common killer where there is poor sanitation. It affects water and food contaminated by sewage. It cannot survive being cooked or boiled but can survive refrigerator or freezer temperatures.
With treatment, the mortality rate is 1-2%, but without treatment, death occurs every 1 in 3 instances.
Shigella occurs when food workers who are carriers of the bacteria fail to wash their hands after using the restroom. It can also be spread through flies touching the food.
Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but some can cause food poisoning. It can infect humans and cattle and it only takes a small number of these bacteria to make someone sick. It is not dangerous to most healthy people, however, can be fatal for groups such as children, elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.
E. Coli can survive and multiply in refrigerators running as low as 36°F and can survive on stainless steel surfaces for 60 days if not sanitized properly. Cooking above 122°F starts to slow down the growth.
Norovirus is the most common type of viral gastroenteritis in the US, with its short-lived, aggressive diarrhea and projectile vomiting. It is also very contagious.
Norovirus can come from ready-to-eat foods, contaminated water, and raw shellfish from contaminated water. Infected food handlers can spread the virus while they are preparing food. It is commonly spread person-to-person by fecal-oral, oral-oral, and by poor personal hygiene, poor handwashing and bare hand contact.
Hepatitis A is a viral liver infection that is widespread around the world, especially in areas with poor sanitation. It is commonly spread person-to-person by the fecal-oral route, poor handwashing and bare hand contact. Infected people are highly contagious but may not show signs for weeks. Cooking will NOT destroy this virus.
It is important that your staff is food safety trained so are aware of the ways pathogens can spread through food and how to prevent foodborne illnesses.
Always Food Safe offers Food Handlers training to teach you and your staff more about the Big 6 foodborne illnesses and how to prevent the spread of pathogens in your establishment.