Surveillance for foodborne illness outbreaks in Qassim, Saudi Arabia, 2006.Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2010 Dec; 7(12):1559-62.FP
The objectives of this study were to determine the burden of foodborne illness, and to identify the specific foods and causative organisms responsible for foodborne illness outbreaks in Qassim, Saudi Arabia, during the year 2006. The study is a descriptive analysis of the surveillance data for foodborne illness outbreaks, collected by the Preventive Medicine Department, Primary Health Care Administration, Qassim province. We analyzed the foodborne illness surveillance data for the year 2006, using SPSS-11 statistical package. The distribution of foodborne illnesses was examined in relation to age, sex, nationality, and month of occurrence. In addition, types of food, place of food preparation, and pathogenic agent responsible for the outbreaks were also analyzed. During the year 2006, 31 foodborne illness outbreaks, accounting for 251 cases, were reported. The highest proportion (64.5%) of outbreaks was reported during summer months of June to August. Men constituted 66.9% of the cases, and 68.1% were adults. Salmonella species was the commonest causative agent, followed by Staphylococcus aureus. The majority (68.9%) of the cases got sick after consuming commercially prepared foods. Meat intake caused 67.7% cases, and Middle Eastern meat sandwich was a commonly implicated food. Our study concludes that foodborne illness is an important public health problem in Qassim province. A comprehensive approach is required to assure food safety in commercial food establishments. Health education of the community, food handlers, and food industry workers regarding food and personal hygiene will reduce the incidence of foodborne illnesses in Qassim and Saudi Arabia.