"Why did my friend get sick when I didn’t and we ate the same food?"

High-risk populations are more susceptible to foodborne illness than a seemingly healthy person.

A common statement that people may make when they have experienced a foodborne illness is: How come I became sick but my friend didn’t when we ate the same thing?

The answer is in our own body. But just because we may be healthy doesn’t mean we are someone who is resistant to food borne illness. What happens is food becomes contaminated with pathogen-like bacteria and then when it’s ingested, the body is either able to fight the bacteria or the bacteria takes hold. Our immune system is the determining factor. In general, there are populations of people that can be more susceptible to contracting a food borne illness. Keep in mind though, anyone can contract a foodborne illness, not only those with low immune systems can be affected when a food contaminated with a pathogen is ingested. Everyone should be aware and take care to protect yourself and others from getting a food borne illness.

Populations that are at a high risk of developing a foodborne illness include older adults, very young child, anyone that has recently had surgery, takes some medications, or has undergone a surgical procedure and is continuing to heal. Individuals who have a long term illness, such as; cancer patients, diabetics, HIV positive, transplant recipients also have higher risk of contracting food borne illness from contaminated foods.

There are some foods that should be avoided because they have the potential of carrying food borne illness. Any undercooked or raw fish, poultry, shellfish, unpasteurized milk, cheese or yogurt all carry a high potential of harboring a food borne illness. Cheese with mold on it that was not a natural part of the cheese, unwashed fruits and vegetables, lunch meats and raw sprouts are just a few of these foods.

USDA does state that some premade foods with eggs in them are made safe because of the use of pasteurized eggs. Pasteurization lowers the risk of food borne illness by killing the potential bacteria in that food item.

Michigan State University Extension suggests being cautious of the foods we eat and the way they are prepared. It is helpful to remember that there are factors that can place even a healthy person in the high-risk group. Always be safe with food when preparing and serving a high risk population. You may be the one that gets ill and not your friend. 

Did you find this article useful?

You Might Also Be Interested In