The FSA recently published the results of research that gives the most detailed picture yet of how many individuals are sickened by foodborne pathogens in the United Kingdom.
“These findings will help the FSA to target its resources more effectively in tackling food poisoning,” said Prof. Sarah O'Brien, lead researcher from the Univ. of Liverpool. “They confirm that the FSA is right to put campylobacter at the top of its priority list. It is the biggest food safety problem we have and more needs to be done to tackle it.”
The study found there were more than 500,000 cases of food poisoning a year from known pathogens. However, 10 million cases of infectious internal disease (IID) are not attributable to a specific pathogen. Researchers estimate the number of foodborne illness cases would exceed 1 million annually if food poisoning cases from unknown pathogens were included in the statistics.
Poultry meat was linked to the most cases of food poisoning, with an estimated 244,000 cases each year. After poultry, produce caused the second-highest number of illnesses (48,000 illnesses) followed by beef and lamb with an estimated 43,000 cases.
The most common foodborne pathogen was campylobacter with an approximately 280,000 cases every year, followed by Clostridium perfringens with 80,000 cases and norovirus with an estimated 74,000 cases. Salmonella was the pathogen that caused the most hospitalizations with 2,500 each year.
Campylobacter is associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry, raw milk dairy products, contaminated produce and contaminated water, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It also may be acquired through contact with infected animals. It is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States, and CDC estimates more than 1.3 million individuals are affected by campylobacter each year. Approximately 76 individuals with campylobacter infections die each year in the US.
“This study is a very important part of the research we fund to increase our knowledge of food safety and the risks that all of us are exposed to,” said Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA. “Reduction of Campylobacter is our top food-safety priority, and that is borne out by this research. We recently revised our Campylobacter strategy and we, in collaboration with industry, must now push on to find the solutions that will stop so many people getting ill.”