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Food Safety


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), foodborne disease in the U.S. affects an estimated 48 million persons, causes 128,000 hospitalizations and is responsible for approximately 3,000 deaths per year.

Foodborne disease may be caused by various pathogens, such as:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Parasites
  • Toxins
  • Chemical irritants
  • Unknown sources

Illness severity may range from no signs or symptoms of illness (asymptomatic), to mild illness to severe illness requiring hospitalization or causing death. 

A number of risk factors exist that often contribute to the spread of foodborne disease, such as:

  • Not washing ones hands before and after handling food
  • Cross-contamination of food surfaces when they are not properly cleaned after contact with foods
  • Not heating foods to the proper temperature

Preventive measures such as proper hygiene and cooking techniques may limit or control the spread of foodborne disease.

The Virginia Department of Health maintains several roles in attempting to control for and prevent the occurrence of foodborne diseases, including:

  • Performing surveillance activities for various reportable conditions
  • Investigating reportable disease occurrences, including outbreaks
  • Inspecting restaurants

Last Updated: 12-02-2011

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