C.D.C.: Foodborne illness holding steady

by Eric Schroeder
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ATLANTA — Despite several high-profile Salmonella outbreaks during the past few years, the incidence of the most common foodborne illnesses has changed very little over the past three years, according to a 10-state report issued today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the C.D.C., Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium,
Listeria , Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia did not change significantly when compared to the previous three years (2005-07). In the case of Salmonella, the incidence of infections has remained between 14 and 16 cases per 100,000 persons since the first years of the surveillance in 1996-98. Of concern, though, is the fact that the 2008 incident rate for Salmonella is more than twice the stated goal as part of the government’s Healthy People 2010 targets. The 2008 rate also does not include the outbreak linked to peanuts that has stretched into 2009.

The study considers outbreaks in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Tennessee — states considered to be representative of the entire U.S. population.

"This year’s report confirms a very important concern, especially with two high-profile Salmonella outbreaks in the last year," said Robert Tauxe, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director of the C.D.C.’s Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. "We recognize that we have reached a plateau in the prevention of foodborne disease and there must be new efforts to develop and evaluate food safety practices from the farm to the table. The foodborne division at C.D.C. is planning to increase the capacity of several health departments so that outbreaks can be better detected and investigated."

Of the 18,499 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection identified by the C.D.C. in 2008, the most common cause was Salmonella, with 7,444 cases identified, followed by Campylobacter, with 5,825 cases.

The full report, "Preliminary FoodNet Data on the Incidence of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food — 10 States, United States, 2008," is available on-line at www.cdc.gov/mmwr.

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