Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Food-borne illnesses vastly under-estimated

Doug Powell, who holds a doctorate in food-safety communications, says the number of people who are sickened by food poisoning is vastly under-estimated.

“In general, to be captured in a Canadian surveillance system, a sick individual must:

-       seek care;

-       have a sample (stool, urine or blood) requested;

-       submit a sample for testing;

-       the sample must be tested with a test capable of identifying the causative agent;
-       the positive test result must be reported to the surveillance system.”

Given all of these hurdles, Powell says Canada’s Public Health service captures “only a small portion of total illnesses” and says there is both”under-diagnosis and under-reporting taking place.”

It’s in that context that he notes that officials in both the United States and Canada have cited changing figures for the number of food-borne and water-borne illnesses each year.

“For years it was one person in four” for the U.S., Powell writes on his internet “” website.

At that rate, 76 million people were sick every year.

“The Canadians and Australians eventually did their own estimates and came up with one in three.

“Then the Americans revised their number to one in six, or 48 million people barfing per year.

“Now the Canadians have revised their number to one in eight.

“This doesn’t mean food is safer or worse, just that better estimates make more accurate estimations – and these are still vast estimations,” Powell says.

At one in eight, that’s four million Canadians who are sickened by food or water every year.