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CDC Report: Foodborne Illnesses Still a Problem

More than 19,000 cases reported in 2012 (Apr. 18)

The nation’s annual food safety report card is out, and it shows that 2012 rates of infections from two germs spread commonly through food have increased significantly when compared with a baseline period of 2006–2008, while rates of most others have not changed during the same period. The data are part of the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) report released April 18 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Infections from Campylobacter — which is linked to many foods, including poultry, raw milk, and produce — increased up to 14% percent in 2012 compared with 2006–2008. They were at their highest level since 2000, according to the report. In addition, Vibrio infections were up 43% compared with the rates observed in 2006–2008. Vibrio vulnificus, the most severe strain, has not increased.

Campylobacter is associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry, raw-milk dairy products, contaminated produce, and contaminated water. It is also acquired through contact with infected animals. Campylobacter usually causes diarrhea, stomach pain, and fever, which resolve in about a week.

Vibrio lives naturally in sea water, and foodborne Vibrio infection is most often linked to eating raw oysters. The pathogen is rare, but it can cause serious, life-threatening infection, especially in people with liver disease.

While progress had been made during the past few years in reducing infections from a dangerous type of Escherichia coli — Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157 — rates in 2012 went back up, the CDC says. The incidence of STEC O157 infection had decreased to 0.95 per 100,000 population in 2010, but last year it was 1.12 per 100,000 population.

FoodNet — a collaboration among the CDC, ten state health departments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and the FDA — tracks whether selected infections are increasing or decreasing. Overall, in 2012, FoodNet’s 10 sites reported 19,531 illnesses, 4,563 hospitalizations, and 68 deaths from nine germs commonly spread through foods.

Source: CDC; April 18, 2013.

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