ATLANTAWhile foodborne illnesses from Salmonella have decreased during the past three years, Campylobacter infections rose 13% and Vibrio infections hit the highest levels reported since 1996, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The rate of Salmonella infections decreased by about 9% in 2013 compared with the previous three years, bringing it to the rate last observed in the 2006 to 2008 baseline period, according to the 2013 Food Safety Progress Report. Campylobacter infections, often linked to dairy products and chicken, and Vibrio infections, linked to eating raw shellfish, both experienced significant increases; however, rates of infections caused by Vibrio vulnificus, the most severe species, have remained steady. Rates of the other foodborne infections tracked have not changed since the period between 2006 and 2008.
“CDC data are essential to gauge how we’re doing in our fight against foodborne illness," said Robert Tauxe, M.D., M.P.H, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases. “This year’s data show some recent progress in reducing Salmonella rates, and also highlight that our work to reduce the burden of foodborne illness is far from over. To keep Salmonella on the decline, we need to work with the food industry and our federal, state and local partners to implement strong actions to control known risks and to detect foodborne germs lurking in unsuspected foods."
The data for the report card come from the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), a group of experts from CDC, 10 state health departments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 2013, FoodNet logged just more than 19,000 infections, 4,200 hospitalizations and 80 deaths from the seven bacteria strains and two parasites germs it tracks. Young children were the most affected group for seven of the nine germs.
New standards for cut-up poultry parts and plans to modernize poultry inspection are already in the works to increase the safety of chicken. Regulations designed to help prevent food safety problems have been proposed for many sectors of the food industry, including produce farms, food facilities, food importers, food transporters, and third-party auditors/certification bodies.
"Steps are underway to address many of the concerns raised in this report, such as our Salmonella Action Plan, and other plans to modernize food inspection," said David Goldman, M.D., M.P.H., assistant administrator, FSIS’ Office of Public Health Science. “As these actions are being implemented, we are beginning to see progress, and I am confident we will see further improvement over time."
Stephen Ostroff, M.D., the FDA’s acting chief scientist, also said the latest report indicates it is important to continue preventative measures from the farm to consumer. FDA has made progress through the Food Safety Modernization Act by issuing seven proposed rules addressing the safety of produce, imported foods, and human and animal food production and transportation.