Friday, April 10, 2009

Food illnesses held steady

by Anthony J Sepe




The Associated Press reports that Americans didn’t  suffer more food poisoning last year despite high-profile  outbreaks involving peppers, peanut butter and other foods, according to a government report released Thursday.

Rates of food-borne illnesses have been holding steady for 5 years.  They had been declining from the mid-1990’s until the beginning of this decade, mainly because of improvements in the meat and poultry industry, some experts say.

But produce-associated food poisonings have been increasing, and the nation is no longer whittling down food-borne disease, government officials said.

“Progress has plateaued,” said Dr. Robert Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and prevention, a co-author of the report.

The report looks at the occurrence of about 10 leading food-borne illnesses in 10 states that participate in a federally funded food poisoning monitoring system.

The research appears in this week’s issue of the CDC publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Salmonella remained the most common cause of food poisoning, triggering more than 7,400 lab-confirmed illnesses in those states.  That translates to a rate of about 16 cases for every 100,000 people.  There has been no significant change in the salmonella rate in recent years, CDC officials.

An estimated 87 million cases of food-borne illnesses occur in the US each year, including 371,000 deaths, according to an Associated Press calculation that used the CDC formula and current population estimates.

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