Foodborne Disease Epidemiologist

By Sullivan, Megan | The Science Teacher, September 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Foodborne Disease Epidemiologist

Sullivan, Megan, The Science Teacher

We are often warned about risks of well-known foodborne bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli. But did you know that these infections are just two of more than 250 different identified foodborne diseases? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 76 million cases of foodborne illness occur in the U.S. each year; 5,000 are fatal. Most of these illnesses are caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites and the remaining are poisonings triggered by harmful toxins or chemicals. To Jack Guzewich, a foodborne disease epidemiologist with the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, every outbreak is a new mystery. The mysteries unravel as Guzewich discovers how foods become contaminated and works to prevent similar outbreaks in the future.

What led you to this field?

I had no idea such a career even existed when I was in high school or college. I learned about food epidemiology--the causes, distribution, and control of foodborne disease in populations--after I received formal training in my first job as a sanitarian with the New York State Health Department. I like solving puzzles, and every report of a foodborne illness is a new challenge. Piecing together these puzzles requires knowledge and support from a number of disciplines, including epidemiology, microbiology, chemistry, and environmental health.

Describe your job.

I coordinate the work being done by state and local health departments, the CDC, and FDA field staff to assure the best possible investigation and a rapid response to foodborne illness outbreaks. A typical day for a field staff food epidemiologist is different than my job. Field staff receive illness and outbreak reports, conduct investigations, and interpret the findings. Investigations can last from a few days to weeks if they are local in nature. If contamination sources come from other states or countries, federal agencies then get involved and investigations can last from weeks to months.

Essentially, investigations involve determining how food was prepared and interviewing people--both healthy and sick--exposed to the suspected food. There is no one syndrome that constitutes foodborne illness--the different diseases have an assortment of symptoms. However, because the microbe or toxin enters the body through the gastrointestinal tract, the first indications of foodborne illness are often nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Foodborne Disease Epidemiologist


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?