Blame the consumer, ACSH edition; majority of foodborne illness happens at home? ‘Really? Show me the data’

Friend of the barfblog Don Schaffner wrote that in response to a dumb statement by the credibility-questioned American Council on Science and Health with the headline, “Avoiding food poisoning starts in your own kitchen.”

Avoiding food poisoning starts on the farm. It ends at the fork.

In response to an ill-informed Jane Brody column in the N.Y. Times, ACSH’s Ariel Savransky says, “Jane Brody goes into a lot of detail about steps that can be taken to prevent illness from foods you prepare. It may seem like an overdose of minutiae to bear in mind, but the steps are really not so hard to implement and the fact that 70 percent of food blame_canadapoisoning is caused by unsanitary kitchen practices really makes it necessary to follow the advice she provides, and which we here at ACSH endorse.”

Where’s the fact?

We took a shot at the question, and we publish in peer-reviewed journals. Go evidence, or go home.

Jacob, C.J. and Powell, D.A. 2009. Where does foodborne illness happen—in the home, at foodservice, or elsewhere—and does it matter? Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, 6(9): 1121-1123.

Food service professionals, politicians, and the media are often cited making claims as to which locations most often expose consumers to foodborne pathogens. Many times, it is implied that most foodborne illnesses originate from food consumed where dishes are prepared to order, such as restaurants or in private homes. The manner in which the blamequestion is posed and answered frequently reveals a speculative bias that either favors homemade or foodservice meals as the most common source of foodborne pathogens. Many answers have little or no scientific grounding, while others use data compiled by passive surveillance systems. Current surveillance systems focus on the place where food is consumed rather than the point where food is contaminated. Rather than focusing on the location of consumption—and blaming consumers and others—analysis of the steps leading to foodborne illness should center on the causes of contamination in a complex farm-to-fork food safety system.