This is a question I have heard many times, Usually it is said by someone before they sit through my food safety training. They change their ideas after the training when they realise what can really happen from a food poisoning.
For consumers, food poisoning can be as bad as it can possibly be, with death being a possible outcome for a small number of people. Usually these people are in one of the four high risk groups, the immune compromised, the elderly, the young and pregnant women, as they are more likely to get food poisoning and to suffer badly from it.
But bear in mind food poisoning can also have other terrible outcomes besides death, like requiring kidney transplants, development of paralysis and many other long term health problems.
For the vast majority of us, a case of food poisoning will cause vomitting, diarrhoea, cramps, fevers and nausea or a combination thereof and some time off work. We may have to go to hospital but we bounce back into our busy lives and often make a determined effort never to eat the food we think was involved. It is not a thing we want to repeat but we recover and move on. For some it is just embarassing and for others we happily talk about to warn others where we think they should not eat, but it is really more of a general inconvenience than a real problem.
A survey done for the Food Safety Information Council Ltd last year showed that one in three Australians are either in the high risk groups or live with someone who is. This highlights how we cannot just think that food poisoning is just a few days off work, it can be potentially deadly and a cause for long term and debilitating health issues.
Another thing to consider is that not all food poisoning is caused by bacteria alone.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) is caused by food contaminated by cows infected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease).
The case study of arsenic poisoning from a food is Bradford Sweets when 20 of the 200 people involved in the food poisoning died after eating sweets which had been made with a sugar alternative, which contained arsenic.
This year a teacher in China was accused of adding sodium nitrate to the food of 23 kindergarten children and making them very sick with food poisoning.
Another case of food poisoning not involving bacteria is also from China, with melamine being added to products and causing much illness amongst babies in that country.
For food business food poisonings are incredibly bad. The loss of sales, the loss of profit, the loss of possible insurance, increased costs, recalls, are just some of the potential outcomes from a business being involved in a food poisoning.
By following the food safety requirements in the Food Standards Code and State / Territory Food Acts, the likelihood can be dramatically reduced or even prevented.