Food borne pathogens are microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites which infect food and cause illness. These causative agents often disrupt the normal microflora of the gastrointestinal tract, though some also extend and cause damage to organ systems throughout the body. There are around 76 million illnesses and five thousand deaths attributed to food borne illness each year in the United States (Mead et al. 1999). Because there are many prevailing foodborne illnesses, as well as emerging foodborne illnesses, it is important for dietetic professionals to be knowledgeable of common problems that can arise from pathogens in the food consumed and in those recommended to clients.
Review of Literature
Position of the ADA and susceptible populations
According to the American Dietetic Association, dietetics professionals are encouraged to communicate accurate, science-based information and to counter misinformation and inconsistencies of the media by using their direct association with consumers and industry dealing with the United States food and water supply (Ingham and Thies, 1997).
As nutrition professionals it is important to understand the etiology, symptoms, associated foods, and prevention methods for pathogens because foodborne illness is likely to affect many people. Some groups may be especially sensitive to food borne pathogens. Infants often have high susceptibility due to immature microflora in the gut. A bacterial pathogen, such as Salmonella, maybe able to proliferate because there are no competing bacteria. Elderly individuals are at an increased risk due to insufficient acid secretion to rid of pathogenic organisms. Also, they may be part of the immunocompromised population which has problems fighting off pathogens in the gastrointestinal cavity (King et al., 2000). Understanding the microbiological status of at risk groups will help when suggesting and restricting foods.
Common misconceptions of consumers and health professionals
Oftentimes foodborne illnesses are mistaken for the flu or a...