“Although food-borne infections have decreased by nearly one-fourth in the past 15 years, more than 1 million people in this country become ill from Salmonella each year, and Salmonella accounts for about half of the hospitalizations and deaths among the nine food-borne illnesses CDC tracks through FoodNet,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC “Salmonella costs hundreds of millions of dollars in direct medical costs each year. Continued investments are essential to detect, investigate, and stop outbreaks promptly in order to protect our food supply.”
“CDC’s estimates show that there has been very little change in the prevalence of Salmonella-caused illness in humans in the last 15 years,” Dr. Scott Russell, a microbiologist and scientific advisor to the National Chicken Council, told MEATPOULTRY.com. “Yet, we know the presence of Salmonella on raw chicken meat has declined sharply in the last 15 years. Chicken companies have done a very good job improving the microbiological profile of raw products, and consumers should continue to practice common-sense safe handling and preparation steps. To further reduce human exposure to Salmonella, other sources, both food and non-food, should be examined more closely."
The Vital Signs report summarizes 2010 data from the CDC’s Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet).
In 2010, FoodNet sites, which include about 15 percent of the American population, reported nearly 20,000 illnesses, 4,200 hospitalizations and 68 deaths from nine food-borne infections. Of those, Salmonella caused more than 8,200 infections, nearly 2,300 hospitalizations and 29 deaths (54 percent of the total hospitalizations and 43 percent of the total deaths reported through FoodNet). The CDC estimated there are 29 infections for every lab-confirmed Salmonella infection.
The rate of E. coli O157 cases reported by FoodNet sites was two cases per 100,000 people in 1997 and, by 2010, had decreased to 0.9 cases per 100,000 people. The nearly 50 percent reduction in E. coli O157 incidence is considered significant when compared to the lack of change in Salmonella incidence.
The CDC credited the reduction in E. coli to improved detection and investigation of outbreaks through the CDC’s PulseNet surveillance system, cleaner slaughter methods, testing of ground beef for E. coli, better inspections of ground beef processing plants, regulatory improvements like the prohibition of STEC O157 in ground beef and increased awareness by consumers and restaurant employees of the importance of properly cooking beef.
“Thanks to our prevention-based approach to food safety, as well as industry and consumer efforts, we have substantially reduced E. coli O157 illnesses,” said Elisabeth Hagen, undersecretary for food safety in the US Department of Agriculture. “This report demonstrates that we’ve made great progress. However, far too many people still get sick from the food they eat, so we have more work to do. That is why we are looking at all options, from farm to table, in-order to make food safer and prevent illnesses from E. coli, Salmonella, and other harmful pathogens.”
The pathogens included in the overall 2010 rate reduction of 23 percent when compared to 1996-1998 are: campylobacter, E. coli STEC O157, listeria, Salmonella, vibrio and yersinia. Rates of vibrio infection were 115 percent higher than in 1996-1998, and 39 percent higher than in 2006-2008. Most vibrio infections are the result of eating raw or undercooked shellfish.
The full report may be viewed by visiting www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/.