CDC reports highlight foodborne illness trends

Pathogens on leafy greens and in dairy products sickened the most people, while pathogens from poultry caused the most deaths between 1998 and 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report investigated more than 4,500 foodborne illness outbreaks throughout 17 food categories. Of the 17, leafy greens contributed to 2.1 million, or 23 percent, of the illnesses. Dairy products followed with 1.3 million illnesses (14 percent), fruits and nuts with 1.2 million illnesses (12 percent), and poultry with 900,000 illnesses (10 percent).

Norovirus, which causes diarrhea and nausea that typically lasts a few days, caused 57 percent of the illnesses. The virus typically only is serious in the elderly, young children and other people with compromised immune systems.

However, despite not having caused as many illnesses as leafy greens, outbreaks related to poultry products were the most severe, accounting for 277 of the total 1,451 deaths during the 11 year time frame. Roughly 63 percent of these illnesses were caused by Listeria monocytogenes. Salmonella accounted for 26 percent.

The findings came on the heels on another report released earlier this week that pinned norovirus infections as the leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks (42 percent) followed by Salmonella (30 percent) during 2009-2010, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The years 2009 and 2010 saw 1,527 foodborne illness outbreaks, which resulted in 29,444 illnesses.

In an effort to prevent foodborne outbreaks, the U.S. in 2011 passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Two major rules stemming from the law were published for review earlier this month; one regarding safety standards for produce and a second, which requires domestic and foreign food producers to implement preventative controls.

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