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‘More can be done’ in reducing foodborne infections - CDC

By Joe Whitworth+

18-Apr-2014
Last updated on 18-Apr-2014 at 10:48 GMT

Campylobacter infections rose and Salmonella, E.coli O157 and Listeria stayed around the same, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.

Vibrio, linked to raw shellfish, was up 75% compared to the baseline period of 2006-2008 but still represented only a rate of 0.51 per 100,000 population in 2013.

The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) monitors laboratory-confirmed infections caused by nine pathogens transmitted through food in 10 US sites, covering 15% of the population.

Data showed there were just over 19,000 infections, 4,200 hospitalizations, and 80 deaths from the nine germs tracked.

Young children were the most affected group for seven of the nine germs studied.

Salmonella decline in last three years

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 2006-2008 baseline period.

Among 6,520 (90%) serotyped Salmonella isolates, the top serotypes were Enteritidis, 1,237 (19%); Typhimurium, 917 (14%); and Newport, 674 (10%).

Salmonella showed a 2013 rate of 15.19 per 100,000 people, with a target of 11.4 by 2020 and Campylobacter was 13.82 per 100,000 population with a target of 8.5 in six years’ time.

Robert Tauxe, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases, said: “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.”

Mixed results

Campylobacter infections, linked to dairy products and chicken, have risen 13% since 2006-2008.

Vibrio infections, often linked to eating raw shellfish, were at the highest level since active tracking began in 1996 with an increase of 32% compared to 2010-2012.

However, rates of infections caused by Vibrio vulnificus, the most severe species, remained steady.

Rates of other foodborne infections tracked have not changed since between 2006 and 2008.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said it shows ‘mixed results’ for governments tasked with controlling foodborne illness.

"It is critically important that CDC develop a plan to address the increasing use of diagnostic tests that don't use lab cultures," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI food safety director.

"Otherwise the trend of declining reporting of outbreaks may continue—not because fewer people are getting sick, but because state health departments and CDC cannot track the outbreaks."

Among 458 (82%) serogrouped STEC non-O157 isolates, the top serogroups were O26 (34%), O103 (25%), and O111 (14%).

"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, assistant administrator for FSIS’ Office of Public Health Science.

The data came from FoodNet, experts from CDC, ten state health departments, the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Stephen Ostroff, the FDA’s acting chief scientist, said: “We are making significant progress in implementing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, having issued seven proposed rules addressing the safety of produce, imported foods, and human and animal food production and transportation.”   

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