Plateau in prevention of foodborne illness

Despite to high-profile Salmonella outbreaks in the past year, the incidence of the most common foodborne illnesses has changed very little over the past three years, according to a 10-state report released in April by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We recognize that we have reached a plateau in the prevention of foodborne disease and there must be new efforts to develop and evaluate food safety practices from the farm to the table,” said Robert Tauxe, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodbone, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. “The foodborne division at CDC is planning to increase the capacity of several health departments so that outbreaks can be better detected and investigated.”

Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Listeria, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli 0157, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio and Yersinia did not change significantly when compared to the previous three years (2005-2007). Although there have been significant declines in the incidence of some foodborne infections since surveillance began in 1996, these declines all occurred before 2004. The incidence of Salmonella infections has remained between 14 and 16 cases per 100,000 persons since the first years of surveillance. Of  the 18,499 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection identified by the CDC. In 2008, the most common cause was Salmonella, with 7,444 cases, followed by Campylobacter, with 5,825 cases.
Unfortunately, the 2008 incident rate for Salmonella is more than twice the stated goal as part of the government’s Healthy People 2010 targets, and does not include the outbreak linked to peanuts that has stretched into 2009.

“The FDA is embarking on an aggressive and proactive approach in protecting and enforcing the safety of the U.S. food supply,” says David Acheson, M.D., associate commissioner for foods. The Agency is committed to make the necessary changes to keep unsafe products out of the marketplace before they reach consumers.”