A nonprofit public interest organization has found wide differences in the number of outbreaks of foodborne illness reported by states to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In an analysis of data from 2003 through 2012, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) discovered that nine states reported six or more outbreaks per million population, while 19 states reported one or fewer outbreaks per million. Even among states with similar populations, the figures varied drastically. Florida, for example, reported five more times the number of outbreaks as Alabama when controlled for the population, the public interest group reported in a June 8 news release.
Food-safety advocates favor state reporting of outbreaks because they may help prevent illnesses by identifying the contaminated food.
“States that aggressively investigate outbreaks and report them to CDC can help nail down the foods that are responsible for making people sick," CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal said in a statement. “But when states aren’t detecting outbreaks, interviewing victims, identifying suspect food sources, or connecting with federal officials, outbreaks can grow larger and more frequent, putting more people at risk."
In the report “All Over the Map: A 10-Year Review of State Outbreak Reporting," CSPI divulged that the percentage of outbreaks in which public health officials identified both the contaminant and the tainted food declined from 41 percent in 2003 to 29 percent in 2012.
“Our results suggest that many states may lack adequate funding and support for public health services," CSPI said in the report. “The resulting paucity of information impacts our ability to prevent future foodborne outbreaks."