Foodborne Illness Still Big Problem, CDC Says
By Cole Petrochko, Staff Writer, MedPage Today, Published: April 18, 2013
The incidence of Vibrio infections in 2012 was up 43% over the period from 2006 to 2008 and incidence of Campylobacter infection increased by 14%, according to data from the multi-agency FoodNet surveillance network.
The disease surveillance data also showed that rates of infection with a dangerous Escherichia coli strain known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157 were back up to the rates seen in the 2006-to-2008 period, the CDC reported online and in the April 19 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
"That we're still where we were at [several years] ago shows we still have a long way to go" in reducing rates of foodborne infections, said Robert Tauxe, MD, deputy director of the CDC's division of foodborne, waterborne, and environmental diseases, during a press briefing on Thursday.
Although he noted that the aggregate rate of infection from six major foodborne pathogens has fallen from rates in the late 90s, "that number hasn't changed in recent years," he said.
FoodNet is an active, population-based surveillance program that collects data on laboratory-confirmed infections from Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, Listeria, Salmonella,Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157 and non-O157, Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia in 10 states. The network is a collaboration of the CDC, health departments of the 10 participating states, the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the FDA.
The network identified 19,531 confirmed cases of food poisoning in 2012, including:
- 7,800 cases of Salmonella
- 6,793 cases of Campylobacter
- 2,138 cases of Shigella
- 1,234 cases of Cryptosporidium
- 1,082 cases of O157 and non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli
- 193 cases of Vibrio
- 121 cases of Listeria
- 15 cases of Cyclospora
Foodborne infections resulted in 4,563 hospitalizations and 68 deaths in 2012. Incidence of infection was highest among patients ages 5 and younger, but hospitalizations and deaths were most common in those ages 65 and older.
Most hospitalizations were the result of Salmonella (2,284) and Campylobacter (1,044), while most deaths were caused by Salmonella (33) and Listeria (13) infections. The CDC noted that "at least 95% of patients with Listeria in each age group with cases were hospitalized."
Rates of Salmonella infection did not changed from the 2006-2008 period to 2012, Tauxe noted, but rates of the serotype Typhimurium decreased by 19% while the Newport serotype increased by 23%. There was no change in rates of Enteritidis infection.
He added that FoodNet's surveillance data was preliminary and an ongoing, changing process. Current analyses are looking at different classes of foods, such as beef trim, ground beef, and ground parts and products of chicken and poultry. The network is also looking into food poisoning attribution as part of its ongoing research.
"Reducing the incidence of foodborne infections will require commitment and action to implement measures known to reduce contamination of food and to develop new measures," the CDC wrote in its report, adding that farmers, the food industry, regulatory agencies, the food service industry, and public health authorities are all important agents in combating foodborne illness.
Consumers also have a role to play in preventing foodborne illnesses through proper food preparation, Tauxe added.
The agency said its research was limited by inclusion of data from nonfood-spread pathogens and absent data on pathogens not specifically monitored by the network. Generalizability of data also was limited. In addition, mortality data may be inaccurate because the foodborne pathogen may not be the primary cause of death.
Primary source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Crim SM, et al "Incidence and trends of infection with pathogens transmitted commonly through food -- foodborne diseases active surveillance network, 10 U.S. states, 1996-2012" MMWR 2013; 62(15): 283-287.