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Am J Prev Med. 1999 Apr;16(3):216-21.

A multi-state survey of consumer food-handling and food-consumption practices.

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Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Washington, DC, USA.



In the United States, foodborne infections cause an estimated 6.5-33 million illnesses a year. Also included in the burden of foodborne illnesses are sequelae such as hemolytic uremic syndrome, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and reactive arthritis. Surveillance for risky food-handling and food-consumption practices can be used to identify high-risk populations, develop educational efforts, and evaluate progress toward risk reduction.


In 1995 and 1996, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System interviews of 19,356 adults in eight states (1995: Colorado, Florida, Missouri, New York, and Tennessee; 1996: Indiana, New Jersey, and South Dakota) included questions related to food-handling and/or food-consumption practices. Risky food-handling and food-consumption practices were not uncommon. Overall, 19% of respondents did not adequately wash hands or cutting boards after contact with raw meat or chicken. During the previous year, 20% ate pink hamburgers, 50% ate undercooked eggs, 8% ate raw oysters, and 1% drank raw milk. Men were more likely to report risky practices than women. The prevalence of most risky behaviors increased with increasing socioeconomic status.


Targeted education efforts may reduce the frequency of these behaviors. Periodic surveillance can be used to assess effectiveness. In addition to consumer education, prevention efforts are needed throughout the food chain including on the farm, in processing, distribution, and at retail.

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