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Food poisoning cases fall to record low

It is believed that the number of food poisoning cases were lower than usual last year due to the virus pandemic limiting operation of restaurants and cafeterias. (123rf)
It is believed that the number of food poisoning cases were lower than usual last year due to the virus pandemic limiting operation of restaurants and cafeterias. (123rf)
The number of food poisoning cases last year was the lowest ever recorded as the COVID-19 pandemic forced cafeterias to close and increased an emphasis on personal hygiene, data showed Sunday.

According to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, the number of reported food poisoning cases reached 178, down 52 percent from five-year average of 343 cases since 2015.

The number of food poisoning patients reached 53 per million, down 40 percent from an average of 133 patients per million from 2015 to 2019. The ministry said both figures for 2020 are the lowest rates ever recorded since data was compiled in 2002.

The ongoing virus pandemic has played a big role in curbing infections, the ministry said, as the number of mass food poisoning outbreaks significantly dropped with closure of mass dining facilities in schools and offices.

Limited operation of restaurants and cancelation of major tourist events also curbed the number of food poisoning cases at restaurants and cafes.

The number of food poisoning patients from school cafeterias nosedived from 2,304 people in the five-year average to 448 people last year, and the number of food poisoning patients traced to restaurants dropped from 210 to 103 cases in the same time period.

Food poisoning cases from E. coli fell from an average of 44 cases to 15 cases, and norovirus cases also dropped from 52 to 26 cases.

The ministry added that heightened attention to personal hygiene has also played a role in curbing the number of food poisoning cases.

“Initial spread of COVID-19 from March to May has brought people to frequently wash their hands and be more sensitive towards personal hygiene, which accordingly curbed the number of food poisoning cases,” the ministry said in a statement.

“And it is believed that the number of food poisoning cases in August and September fell due to all-out inspections of kindergartens and childcare facilities after a food poisoning case at an Ansan kindergarten in June.”

More than 100 pupils at a kindergarten in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, experienced food poisoning in June, with some of them hospitalized for hamburger disease and other disorders.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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