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Restaurant Food Poisoning A Growing Problem in New York

Mar 18, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP For the second year in a row, New York is in the top five for food poisoning caused by restaurant food, despite the fact that New York is known for having some of the best restaurants in the world, according to a recent report.  The other four states are Florida, California, Minnesota, and Ohio.  According to, a public service Web site that tabulated food-borne illness traced to New York restaurants, says that if you are heading out to your favorite restaurant this weekend, you may want to think twice.

In 2006 there were some 50 outbreaks of food poisoning that sickened 600 people, representing 19 more outbreaks than in 2005.   "I love to eat out, but I would be very scared to look in the kitchen of some of those very restaurants," said Midtown resident Bob Bakhchi.

The review results list seafood and lettuce as the most common causes of outbreaks in New York followed by chicken, deli sandwiches, and ethnic foods.  "I don't eat salad and I try only to go to sushi places that are recommended to me," New Yorker Schinae Wilson said.

According to the New York State Restaurant Association, there are 26,000 restaurant associations throughout New York City alone.  They say these numbers don't add up.  "Fifty is the average number of outbreaks in the entire United States in a period of 10 years, the amount per year," said Chuck Hunt of the NYSRA.  "I would say that NYC is probably one of the safest places in the world to eat in a restaurant."  

The Restaurant Association says a new law was passed that requires training for personnel in restaurants statewide and that New York City has its own set of laws to ensure food is handled properly.   Among the suggestions to ensure your food is safe:  If the food isn't hot, send it back.  Also, if you are able see into the kitchen, make sure the cook staff and other kitchen employees are wearing gloves and practicing good hygiene.

Meanwhile, US food safety officials say the potential for dangerous E. coli bacteria is on the rise again with the potential greatest in spinach and other fresh foods.  Since 2006, when an E. coli outbreak in spinach swept the nation, outbreaks have become more varied, likely because of the growing trend in raw fruits and vegetable consumption, which can harbor dangerous bacteria.  In the last two years, a variety of E. coli pathogens in food have killed at least three people, sickened over 1,300, and touched nearly every state in the country as well as Canada.  This does not include other food borne pathogenic illnesses such as salmonella, botulism, and listeria, which are also on the rise.  And, infectious diseases are becoming more resistant to bacteria because of antibiotic overuse and abuse.  Add to all that the fact that there is emerging data that the negative health effects of some of the illnesses related to E. coli, campylobacter, salmonella, and shigella can remain for months and years later.

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