Foodborne Illnesses' Decline Continues to Stall in 2007

By Matthew Harwood

Salmonella infections decreased in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but its infection rate is still the furthest from its national target compared to other foodborne illnesses tracked by the agency.

The CDC also found that there has been little decline last year in the other foodborne illnesses it tracks through the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, or FoodNet. Significant declines had occurred before 2004, but further reductions have not happened since.

“The results show that prevention efforts have been partly successful, but there has been little further progress in the most recent years,” said Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of CDC′s Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. "More needs to be done to make our food safer. We are constantly working to help our public health system better detect, investigate and control outbreaks and to understand how to prevent foodborne illnesses from happening in the first place."

According to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, there were 14.92 cases of Salmonella infection per 100,000 population last year, a decline of 8 percent compared to the years between 2004 and 2006. Despite the drop, the Salmonella infection rate missed its Healthy People 2010 national health target, set at 6.80 cases per 100,000 people.

Salmonella bacteria live in the intestines of many animals humans consume. People can expose themselves to the bacteria in multiple ways, the CDC says, "including consumption of food animal products or raw produce contaminated with animals and their environment, and contaminated water." In October 2007, North Carolina Division of Public Health reported to the CDC multiple cases of exposure to Salmonella through undersized turtles sold at pet shops, flea markets, and other locations.

Incidences of other foodborne infections associated with Campylobacter, Listeria, Shigella, SETC O157, Vibrio, and Yersinia, according to the CDC, did not change significantly according to the report.

One infection did, however, experience explosive growth. Cyptosporidium infections, which causes diarrhea and dehydration, increased 44 percent from 2004-2006. It is most commonly spread by contact with contaminated excrement from animals and humans.

The CDC noted that while the FoodNet population is like the U.S. population, "the findings might not be generalizable" across the whole population of the United States.

Rather, FoodNet helps health officials better understand the epidemiology— the study of the incidence, distribution, and control of disease in a population—of foodborne illnesses.

For more on the fight against foodborne pathogens, see Assistant Editor Joseph Straw's "Food Testing Trends" in the April issue of Security Management on newstands now.



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