The Food We Eat Is Putting Us In Hospital More Often

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The incidence of food poisoning has declined in Australia but more of us are ending up in hospital because of it

The overall number of cases of foodborne illness fell by 17% between 2000 and 2010 but the number of cases of the two leading causes of hospitalisation, Salmonella and Campylobacter, increased by 24% and 13% respectively.

The Australian National University (ANU) research found each Australian has on average an episode of foodborne gastroenteritis once every five years.

Martyn Kirk, Associate Professor Martyn Kirk from the ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, says authorities have worked hard in the last decade to ensure a safe food supply

“It is disappointing not to see a decline in Salmonella and Campylobacter infections,” he says.

Salmonella bacteria can be carried in undercooked chicken or eggs, while Campylobacter is commonly found in raw or undercooked poultry meat and raw milk.

Salmonella and Campylobacter cases account for only around 5% of cases. The microbiological cause of 80% of foodborne illnesses remain unknown.

“People often don’t find out the cause of their illness, either because they don’t visit a doctor, or they don’t have a test,” says Kirk.

The research also found an 85% decline in cases of Hepatitis A virus infection as a result of vaccination campaigns.

In a second paper the researchers looked at four illnesses that can result from gastro; Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and reactive arthritis (ReA).

They found nearly 1% of gastro cases, around 35,840 people, subsequently developed one of these illness, with 1,080 hospitalised and 10 deaths.

The findings have been published in two papers in the journals US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Emerging Infectious Diseases.

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