The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released its Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) report, which shows that 2012 rates of infections from two germs spread commonly through food have increased significantly when compared to a baseline period of 2006–2008, while rates of most others have not changed during the same period. Infections from campylobacter—which is linked to many foods, including poultry, raw milk, and produce—have risen 14% in 2012 compared to 2006–2008. They were at their highest level since 2000. Vibrio infections as a whole were up 43% when compared with the rates observed in 2006–2008. Vibrio vulnificus, the most severe strain, has not increased. Foodborne vibrio infections are most often associated with eating raw shellfish.
“The U.S. food supply remains one of the safest in the world,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “However, some foodborne diseases continue to pose a challenge. We have the ability, through investments in emerging technologies, to identify outbreaks even more quickly and implement interventions even faster to protect people from the dangers posed by contaminated food.”
While progress had been made in the past few years in reducing infections from a dangerous type of E. coli, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157, rates in 2012 went back up. Incidence of STEC O157 infection had decreased to 0.95 per 100,000 population in 2010, but last year went back up to 1.12 per 100,000 population. FoodNet, a collaboration among CDC, 10 state health departments, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (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.
In 2011, FSIS implemented new and revised industry performance standards for campylobacter and Salmonella, respectively, to decrease the presence of these pathogens in broiler chickens and turkeys. The FDA is working closely with its federal and state partners to better understand the root causes of the increase in Vibrio. In addition, the agency is implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act.
“New prevention-based rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act will help to reduce foodborne illness in general and new enforcement authorities allow us to take action to keep harmful foods out of the marketplace,” said Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine at FDA.