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Study on the General Public’s Beliefs About Gastrointestinal Illness

This page lists the completed EHS-Net food safety study with a focus on the general public’s beliefs about gastrointestinal illness.

Read about how EHS-Net’s environmental public health practice work supports CDC’s Winnable Battle on Food Safety. [PDF - 305 KB]

Beliefs About Sources of Gastrointestinal Illness Population Study

Photo of 2 couples dining at a restaurant.

Objective: To increase understanding of the population’s experiences with and beliefs about gastrointestinal illness.

Study Results: A telephone survey of randomly selected U.S. residents revealed that: 22% of respondents believed their recent gastrointestinal illness resulted from a specific meal eaten outside the home; respondents who experienced mild symptoms were more likely to attribute their illness to a meal eaten outside the home; respondents tended to use some of the same reasons, such as symptom timing and illness of their meal companions, for attributing illness to a specific meal as epidemiologists do; only 8% of respondents reported their illness to a health department or suspected restaurant; and most respondents who attributed their illness to a specific outside meal said their illness symptoms began within a short time (5 hours) of eating that meal. These results suggest that education efforts should focus on the nature and timing of foodborne illness symptoms and the importance of reporting suspected foodborne illnesses.

Publication: Green LR, Selman C, Scallan E, Jones TF, Marcus R, EHS-Net Population Working Group. Beliefs about meals eaten outside the home as sources of gastrointestinal illness [PDF - 208 KB] J Food Prot. 2005;68(10):2184-9. Article includes quantitative data about the population’s beliefs about meals eaten outside the home as the source of gastrointestinal illness, reasons for attributing illness to specific outside meals, and factors associated with attributing illness to outside meals.

Study findings in plain language: Beliefs that restaurant meals made people sick.

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