Minneapolis, MN (PRWEB) November 20, 2009
The numbers are staggering: Each year in the United States food poisoning causes 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths. This translates into premature death, immeasurable loss of productivity and $6.9 billion in medical costs. One-third of this sum is attributable to food poisoning in children under the age of 10.
An important new study by the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention of Grove City, Pennsylvania, concludes justifiably that the United States needs to start tracking the long-term health consequences of food poisoning involving five separate pathogens: E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes and Toxoplasma gondi.
The study found that these five organisms may increase the risk of serious, long-term complications such as paralysis (Guillain-Barre Syndrome), kidney failure (hemolytic uremic syndrome), mental retardation, diabetes, arthritis, heart problems, sepsis, stroke, visual impairment and hearing impairment.
There is a great deal of uncertainty about the scope of the problem because the links between long-term health problems and prior food poisoning have not been adequately studied and foodborne illness is underreported.
“This study amplifies the true misery associated with foodborne illness,” said Fred Pritzker, a national food safety attorney. “The long term effects of foodborne Illness are like a time bomb. Even after the acute symptoms improve, parents need to be watchful and realize that children may have a lifetime of problems.”
According to Pritzker, this study of the long-term negative health effects of foodborne illness should be a powerful catalyst for more meaningful food safety reform.
Here are brief summaries of the pathogens and correlating long-term health hazards:
Campylobacter infection afflicts millions of Americans and hospitalizes over ten thousand annually. It is associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), the most common cause of neuromuscular paralysis in the United States. GBS can result in permanent disabilities and many patients require long-term care.
E. coli O157:H7 can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), the leading cause of acute kidney failure in children in the United States. HUS can lead to death or long-term health complications such as end-stage kidney disease, neurological complications and other disabling conditions.
Listeria monocytogenes, the leading cause of foodborne illness deaths in the United States, infects thousands of Americans every year and has been associated with infections of the brain and spinal cord, resulting in serious, long-term neurological dysfunctions and impaired ability to see, hear, speak or swallow. Most reported cases of listeriosis occur in children under the age of 4, but most of the deaths are in the elderly population. In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, premature birth or still birth.
Salmonella, as well as other foodborne pathogens, can trigger reactive arthritis (Reiter’s syndrome) in certain individuals, leaving them with temporary or permanent arthritis. Reiter’s syndrome causes painful and swollen joints and can greatly affect an individual's ability to work and quality of life. Besides Reiter’s syndrome, Salmonella is also associated with many other complications and is the second leading cause of foodborne illness deaths in the United States. Nearly half of all reported Salmonella cases occur in children.
Toxoplasma gondii is the third leading cause of foodborne illness deaths in the United States. Infection can result in visual impairment or mild to severe mental retardation, with 80% of infected fetuses/infants manifesting impairment by age 17.
Fred Pritzker is founder and president of Pritzker Olsen, P.A. The firm has collected millions of dollars on behalf of victims of food poisoning. For more information, visit http://www.pritzkerlaw.com or E. coli blog. To contact Fred Pritzker, call 612-338-0202. Pritzker Olsen has offices at Plaza VII Building, Suite 2950, 45 S. Seventh St., Minneapolis, MN 55402.