Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food

The USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a new report last week that reveals startling deficiencies in food safety. For examples, there has been a 50 percent increase in E coli infections since 2004, and a whopping 78 percent increase in Vibrio infections (generally caused by eating raw shellfish) over the past decade.

Progress was made against rising cases of food contamination through consumer education, where the USDA and other Government entities promoted fully cooking of meat products (such as sea food, poultry, eggs, and beef) and thoroughly washing surfaces that came into contact of such raw produce.

BUT, the huge outbreaks associated with spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and peanut butter that have occurred over the last 6 months suggest the battle for reducing foodborn illnesses is losing ground. The problem has spread to foods that are commonly eaten raw.

As important as it is to detect contamination and quickly pull such products from the market ...it is equally important -- MORE important in my humble opinion -- to prevent contaminations at the source.

As BeverageDaily writes, "...an absolute priority needs to be better systems for prevention."
Voluntary guidance or industry self regulatory schemes is a short sighted answer to a growing problem that calls for immediate and permanent solutions, according to Consumers Union...

ConAgra [in response to the Peter Pan Peanut Butter contamination responsible for at least 4 deaths] said it "had plans in place to address this kind of situation". Now the firm is totally renovating and redesigning its plant to separate raw ingredients from finished products, as well as appointing a Global Food Safety executive and forming a Food Safety Advisory Committee.

These are all positive moves, it's just a shame they needed to be prompted by disaster. Learning from mistakes is good, but preventing them is even better.

Salmonella infections cause an estimated 1.4 million human illnesses and 400 deaths annually in the United States, according to the CDC. In total, the CDC estimates that 76 million Americans get sick and 5,000 die from foodborne hazards each year in the United States.


CDC Report (link): "Preliminary FoodNet Data on the Incidence of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food --- 10 States, 2006"

BeverageDaily (link): "Food contamination: time for action"

CDC Report (link): "Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium Infections Associated with Eating Ground Beef --- United States, 2004"