Explain how food-borne illness outbreaks are investigated and prevented. Discuss
challenges to ensuring food safety. Summarize a recent food-borne illness. Discuss two
ways in which the illness could be prevented in the future.
Food-Borne Illness Outbreaks
Food-borne illness outbreaks require comprehensive investigation through a series of
fundamental steps. The first step involves determining the existence of an outbreak. It requires
preliminary assessments and interviews that take account of the specified cases to ascertain the
manifestation of the illness. The second step involves making a proper diagnosis. Where
appropriate, it requires collection of clinical specimens from the initial cases. The third step
involves defining and establishing the number of existing cases. This step serves a fundamental
role in determining whether or not a real outbreak exists (Osimani & Clementi, 2016). Along
with conducting comprehensive interviews with initial cases, this step requires determining the
population at risk. The fourth step involves conducting site examinations at the implicated
places. Where appropriate, food specimens may be collected for laboratory analysis. Upon
establishing the food-borne illness, the next step involves initiating measures to control and
prevent further cases of the illness per the existing guidelines. In a severe case, a formal outbreak
control team may be formulated. The team determines the best ways of communicating with
other professionals, patients, and the community. It also has to ensure the precision and
timeliness of the control measures.
As most professionals admit, ensuring food safety faces different challenges. Changes in
food supply where more imported foods find their way into the consumer market. Similarly,
FOOD-BORNE ILLNESS OUTBREAKS 2
sporadic environmental changes contribute to unsuspected food contamination (Osimani &
Clementi, 2016). The changes also result in new and emergent microorganisms and contaminants
as well as resistance to antibiotics. Ultimately, changes in diagnostic tests make contamination to
remain undetected. This can take place at any point right from food production, supply,
processing, or preparation.
One of the recent food-borne illness occurred from April through December 2019, where
an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes was reported across five states. Through in-depth
interviews, ill persons indicated to have consumed foods containing eggs. Further investigations
revealed that most of the ill persons consumed hard-boiled eggs. Sampling efforts found the
specific strain of Listeria monocytogenes in the Almark hard-boiled eggs, prompting a recall of
the product from the market. Preventing such an incidence in the future requires thorough
disinfection practices of equipment used in food preparation. Another measure requires microbial
analysis of the eggs before releasing them into the market. This can be done by taking random
samples in every batch of hard-boiled eggs.
FOOD-BORNE ILLNESS OUTBREAKS 3
Osimani, A., & Clementi, F. (2016). The occurrence of Listeria monocytogenes in mass catering:
An overview in the European Union. International Journal of Hospitality
Management, 57, 9-17.