Cases of Foodborne Illnesses During the Holidays Increase: Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday!

posted Dec 5, 2011, 1:25 PM by Todd Fox   [ updated Sep 24, 2016, 8:17 AM ]

The holidays are almost always filled with sharing treats, parties and other events centered on food.  They are also a time when cases for foodborne illness increase.  In early 2003, I witnessed more than 50% of the workforce of a previous employer become ill after a company potluck. The culprit: an under-cooked homemade Chinese Food Dish.  Infection control principles for food safety can save you and your company a lot of suffering. 


It is still not clear why potlucks are allowed by companies anymore with such a high number of illnesses reported.  So many things can go wrong when many people are cooking for a large group, transporting and reheating food.  It may sound cliché, but I would be a rich man if I had a dime for the amount of times I have seen or heard of someone getting food poisoning from a potluck.


The chances are daunting with:

                -Undercooked meats

                -Improperly cooled and stored meats and other volatile foods (potatoes, rice, etc.)

                -Reheated or precooked dishes prepared inadequately

                -Volatile foods left out too long (3-4 hour window in high temperatures)

                -Low hygiene standards for cleaning

                -Low hygiene standards for cooking

                -Many more factors


Here are some interesting foodborne illness facts (as quoted from a document compiled by Ecolab Inc.):


-The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year.


-Foodborne illness costs the U.S. economy between $5 billion and $22 billion each year in lost productivity, hospitalization, long-term disability and even death.


-The CDC lists four sources of foodborne illness: disease-causing bacteria, viruses, parasites and toxins.  A few of these are very common and account for the majority of reported illness cases.


-While the likelihood of serious complications is unknown, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that approximately 2 to 3 percent of all foodborne illness cases lead to secondary long-term illnesses.


In order to limit the number of foodborne illnesses that occur at your family, friend or work parties, the following is suggested in terms of the food that is served:


                -Avoid potlucks if possible

                                -Have the host prepare volatile foods (volatile foods are those that need to be cooked, cooled, stored and reheated)

                                -Have guests chip in money for the host rather than bring food

                -Assign out food items that don’t need to be cooked, reheated, etc.

                -Plan a party with just simple snacks rather than full meals

                -Address double-dipping issues upfront.  Make it light and funny but get the point across

                -If a potluck is necessary, be more selective about who is assigned to bring potentially volatile foods


We hope that everyone will enjoy a happy AND healthy holiday season!  Get into an OUTFOX Mindset today.  Let us know if we can help you or your organization OUTFOX infection to avoid illness and disease.

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