Americans are twice as likely to get food poisoning from food prepared at a restaurant compared with food prepared at home, newly published data from the Center for Science in the Public Interest shows.
The Washington, D.C.-based CSPI published “Outbreak Alert! 2014” in April, and a news release from the group highlighted the disparity in outbreaks linked to restaurants.
In their 17-page report, the CSPI look at “solved” outbreaks of foodborne illness over the course of a decade, where both the food and pathogen linked to an outbreak were identified by investigators. The report, reviewing foodborne outbreaks from 2002-11, found 1,610 outbreaks in restaurants made more than 28,000 people sick.
On the other hand, 893 outbreaks linked to private homes resulted in about 13,000 cases of foodborne illness.
Joan McGlockton, vice president of industry affairs and food policy for the National Restaurant Association, said overall reports of foodborne illness have declined over time.
"The fact that states reported 42%fewer outbreaks in 2011 than in 2002 is a positive trend," she said in a statement. She said the NRA's ServSafe food preparation training program has trained more than 5.6 million food service workers across the U.S. in safe food handling.
“Food safety in restaurants depends on safe ingredients and food safety best practices in preparation, handling and service," McGlockton said in the statement. "The enactment and now proposed regulations for implementation of FSMA will provide for safer imported and domestically produced foods.”
The United Fresh Produce Association and the Food and Drug Administration were not immediately available for comment on the report.
A spokeswoman for CSPI said the data was important.
“It helps to dispel the persistent myth that if only consumers did a better job of cooking their food, there would be far fewer outbreaks and illnesses,” said Sarah Klein, senior staff attorney with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
“That is a myth that upsets the families of victims and advocates who work hard to see change at the producer, retail and restaurant levels.”
The “passing of the buck” to consumers is not backed up by CSPI findings, she said.
“Because the data shows that the problem is coming out of restaurants more so than private homes, it illustrates that even in an environment where food handlers are trained and are overseen by certified food managers, that foodborne illness is still an enormous problem,” she said.