"As a pediatrician, my No. 1 concern is to keep children safe and healthy. Inside the walls of my office, I can provide services and counseling to help do just that, whether by giving an infant her first childhood vaccine, providing a mental health screening to an adolescent patient or counseling parents about how to keep their homes as safe as possible. Unfortunately, there are some threats to children's health that are beyond my control, including the food they consume.
As was brought to light all too clearly recently when children as young as 1 year old were among the 81 people from 18 states (including Maryland) who were infected with salmonella linked to imported cucumbers, food-borne illness is a real threat to children's health. One in six Americans is affected by food-borne illness each year, causing 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. As a pediatrician, I know that children are disproportionately bearing this burden, accounting for a large proportion of food-borne illness cases annually.
Sadly, children are also among those most at risk of dying from foodborne illness or suffering serious, lifelong health complications from food-borne infections. This is because children have developing immune systems that aren't always well equipped to fight infection; because they usually are smaller, it doesn't take much exposure to contaminated food to make them sick; and children have limited control over their diets and lack the developmental maturity necessary to carefully judge food safety risks."