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Food Safety

Rates of Foodborne Illnesses Rising, CDC Reports

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Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 6:00 AM
click to enlarge Cantaloupe contaminated with Listeria killed 30 and sicked 146 last year - FLICKR/NEWS21 - NATIONAL
  • Flickr/News21 - National
  • Cantaloupe contaminated with Listeria killed 30 and sicked 146 last year

In the wake of the massive Trader Joe's salad recall comes a new government report that says the U.S. is falling short of its goals to reduce foodborne illness outbreaks, Bloomberg reports. According to preliminary Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data for 2011, the foodborne pathogens Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter contribute to 48 million illnesses a year.

Incidents of Listeria, a bacterium found in prepared foods (such as Trader Joe's recalled barbecue chicken salads) and soil, and Campylobacter, which causes diarrhea and vomiting, actually rose last year, completely failing to meet the health objectives. Illnesses from E. coli increased slightly, to 0.98 cases per 100,000, but met the national goal of 1 case per 100,000, and were about half the rate of 2000, according to the data. Salmonella cases fell to 16.5 per 100,000 people, but that was far short of the goal for a reduction to 6.8 illnesses per 100,000, the CDC said July 27.

Salmonella remains the most frequent cause of foodborne sickness in the U.S., with an estimated 1.2 million stricken each year and $365 million in medical expenditures, the CDC reported in 2011. Campylobacter illnesses are at their highest rate since 2000.

The Consumer Federation of America, a Washington-based advocacy group, is using the new data to push for a more rapid rollout of the Food Safety Modernization Act, a sweeping set of rules passed by Congress in January 2011 that has missed deadlines for implementation. The act shifts the FDA's food safety program from one of reaction to prevention. The FDA has proposed regulations to implement four major components of the law -- produce safety, preventive controls for food and animal feed, and import safety, yet they remain stymied due to government red tape.

"Progress on reducing foodborne illness remains stalled, and for most of the major pathogens, seems to be moving in the wrong direction," the federation said in a July 28 statement.

The CDC "quietly posted" the information online last week without doing stakeholder briefings that have occurred in previous years or putting out a news release, according to the Consumer Federation of America's food policy institute.

Salmonella and E. coli are both passed from the feces of people or animals to others. Poultry is the food most associated with Salmonella outbreaks, according to the CDC. E. coli is typically found in ground meat products.

Contaminated food causes an estimated 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths annually, according to the agency.

Look, all the American people want is food without crap in it. Why is that so difficult?


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