Re: Cutting boards and vegetarians
From: Stuart Staniford-Chen (
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000 16:17:40 -0700 (MST)
Thanks so much for posting these numbers Kay.  It's really helpful.

After looking at them, it seems that this is a smallish but not
completely negligible risk - worth exhorting people to do the right
thing, but not worth forcing everyone to get a certificate (which would
be pretty damn hard to make everyone do at most cohousing communities, I

Looks like risk of death by food poisoning is about one tenth of that
due to car accidents, and comparable to that of burning to death in a
fire, but, as Kay notes, 25 times worse than dying in a bolt of

Risk of getting sick is much higher, but the numbers seem very
uncertain, and it's not clear how sick you have to be before becoming "a
case".  Some of that risk of food poisoning will not be under the
control of the cooks.

An interesting question is whether cohousing meals are more or less
risky than home-cooked meals and restaurant meals.  My guess is that
it's generally a lower risk meal, because cooks are more likely to buy
food the same day or the previous day, cook everything all at once and
serve it right away.  I don't recall anyone ever getting sick in about
seven or eight years now of eating community dinner pretty regularly at
two different cohousing communities.  I've been sick a couple of times
after restaurant meals.

Marsh Commons Cohousing, Arcata, CA.

(Who was recently glad to be vegetarian while staying with a family
member who left a cooked chicken out on the counter for 36 hours before
serving it to her family.)

Kay Argyle wrote:
> > What is the risk of getting food poisoning from careless food
> > preparation at home?  How does it compare to being struck by lightning?
> 100 deaths by lightening vs. 2,700 deaths from food poisoning annually in
> the U.S. (sources for these figures are given below).  So possibly
> twenty-five times as dangerous, if you just count deaths.  I didn't find
> any statistics on how many people survive being struck by lightening, but
> going by the USDA figures there are 1,000 cases of food poisoning for every
> death.  If there are 3 million nonfatal cases of food poisoning in the U.S.
> annually, out of a population of 250 million, that means 1 out of every 100
> people _every year_.
> Website URLs follow each quote below.
> "From the same source (1991 figures of National Safety Council), here
> is the table of accidental deaths in the US:
>   Accident cause              Mortality rate per 100,000 people
>   -------------------------------------------------------------
>   Automobiles                                 18.6
>   Home accidents                               8.6
>   Falls                                        5.0
>   Poisoning                                    2.6
>   Fires                                        1.7
>   Suffocation                                  1.3
>   Hunting (among participants)                 0.85
>   Lightning                                    0.04
>   Insect stings                                0.02
>   Hunting (among non-participants)             0.001"
> Estimated 3 to 7 million food poisoning cases in the U.S. in 1993.
> Estimated 2,695 to 8,587 deaths.  (USDA figures)
> (
> "The cost of food poisoning to the nation, based on direct medical
> expenses, lost wages, and productivity, and industry loss of tainted food
> products, is estimated at $1 billion to $10 billion annually."  U.S. FDA,
> "Nationwide: #1 - Fire; #2 - Floods; #3 - Lightening; #4 - Tornadoes.
> Nationwide in 1988, there were 552,5000 residential fires which killed
> 5,065 people." [hazardous causes of death]
> "Between 100 and 300 people are killed by lightening each year in the
> United States."
> Kay Argyle
> Wasatch Commons

Stuart Staniford-Chen --- President --- Silicon Defense
                   stuart [at]
(707) 822-4588                     (707) 826-7571 (FAX)

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