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With the advent of new food safety legislation under debate in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, a new national survey reveals that Americans are more concerned than ever when it comes to choosing what's safe to eat, yet are alarmingly unaware of the long-term side effects of salmonella, one of the most common foodborne illnesses.
Conducted by TNS Global and National Pasteurized Eggs (NPE), the survey of 1,000 Americans revealed that almost half (47 percent) of U.S. consumers are more concerned about food safety than they were before last year's peanut butter-related salmonella outbreak. However, more than 87 percent of Americans can’t identify the more serious, long-term affects of salmonella poisoning, such as heart damage, joint pain, bone marrow infection and even meningitis.
More surprisingly, most didn't know which groups or who is most at risk.
According to the survey, nearly half of all Americans are unaware that preschool children and pregnant women are at high risk for long-term complications from salmonella illness, which is responsible for 1.4 million illnesses, 15,000 hospitalizations and 400 deaths in the United States annually, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Americans Still Eating Undercooked Eggs
"Most Americans can accurately identify the troublesome short-term risks, but not necessarily long-term side effects of salmonella exposure, or the groups most at risk for complications from even a mild case of the disease," said Jeff Nelken, a food safety expert based in California. "In order to be safe consumers of food, we need to be aware of the foods that can lead to salmonella poisoning."
According to the study, more than 93 percent of Americans consume eggs, potentially one of the most dangerous foods in terms of foodborne illness, according to Nelken. Additionally, three out of 10 Americans still eat their eggs in styles that are undercooked such as over easy and sunnyside up, and seven of 10 Americans eat scrambled eggs, which can also pose a risk if they are served softly scrambled.
"These new statistics show Americans continue to hold taste and tradition over risk of illness or worse," says Nelken. "While eggs are nutritionally dense and a great food item, there is a great risk of contracting salmonella poisoning from not only undercooking, but [also] cross-contamination in the kitchen."