Foodborne infections in the home linked to social functions

November 08, 2001

Although there has been a downward trend in outbreaks of infectious intestinal diseases in the home, food is the predominant transmitter of infection, and seems to be linked to social functions such as barbecues and dinner parties, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

O'Brien and colleagues analysed recorded outbreaks of infectious intestinal diseases in private households in England and Wales from 1992 to 1999.

General outbreaks (outbreaks affecting more than one household) accounted for 226 (5%) of the 4604 outbreaks reported during the surveillance period. Of 4602 people affected, 205 (4.5%) were admitted to hospital. The risk of hospitalisation from outbreaks linked to the home was higher than that linked with outbreaks related to other premises.

Food was the predominant transmitter of infectious intestinal disease and seemed to occur when individuals catered for larger groups than usual - for example, barbecues and dinner parties - more frequently than other modes of transmission were. The most frequently reported pathogen was salmonella.

Poultry, desserts containing raw egg, and egg dishes were commonly implicated. The most common faults in food hygiene were inappropriate storage, inadequate cooking, and cross contamination.

The downward trend in general outbreaks linked with the home is encouraging and mirrors the national decrease in salmonella infection, conclude the authors.
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General outbreaks of infectious intestinal diseases linked with private residences in England and Wales, 1992-9: questionnaire study BMJ Volume 323, pp 1097-8

BMJ

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