As one year ends and another begins, we have the opportunity to look back and reflect upon the year that was and all the memories we created. When it comes to food safety and outbreaks of foodborne illness, however, these are probably some memories we would rather forget altogether.
Nevertheless, compiled below are the top 10 most important foodborne illness outbreaks of 2016, according to a recent publication:
- Live poultry and backyard flocks
2016 brought eight multi-state outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to live poultry and backyard flocks. According to reports, three people died among the 895 confirmed cases of Salmonella, of which 209 required hospitalization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the cases spread across 48 states and the victims had contact with live poultry and chicks from multiple hatcheries in the week before becoming ill.
- Frozen vegetables linked to Listeria
More than 350 consumer products sold under 42 brand names and at least 100 other products prepared with ingredients from the same contaminated source were recalled, but not before nine people in four states were hospitalized from exposure to Listeria.
- Hepatitis A from raw scallops
At least 292 were infected with hepatitis — traced back to raw scallops harvested in the Philippines and distributed to California, Nevada and Hawaii.
- Listeria linked to packaged salads
One death was confirmed among 19 Listeria cases in nine states that were linked to packaged salads produced at a single processing plant. Isolates in the U.S. outbreak were found to be closely related to Listeria isolates from ill people in Canada.
- Listeria outbreak linked to raw milk
After two years of mystery, the CDC issued one of its most controversial reports in March 2016, after whole genome sequencing of Listeria bacteria linked several cases of Listeria contamination to one organic milk producer. Although raw milk advocates cried foul over the report, the CDC stuck to its science that the two cases, including a death in Florida, were linked to unpasteurized raw milk from the producer.
- Hepatitis A linked to frozen strawberries
The second largest hepatitis A outbreak of 2016 did not involve any deaths, but did result in 134 illnesses in nine states. Of those, 129 people reported eating a smoothie containing strawberries from a popular smoothie chain. Then in October 2016, the International Company for Agricultural Production and Processing (ICAPP) recalled strawberries imported from Egypt dating back to Jan. 1, 2016. The frozen strawberries were imported for use by foodservice operations across the country, including restaurants, schools, hospitals and hotels.
- E.coli infections linked to flour
On Sept. 29, 2016, the CDC said the outbreak involving Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infections from flour was over, but illnesses might continue for “some time.” That’s because flour and other dry products with flour as an ingredient, typically remain in people’s homes for a long time because of long shelf lives. In all, the flour outbreak saw 63 confirmed illnesses in 24 states. The outbreak also caused FDA and CDC to repeat warnings not to eat raw dough or batter and numerous products made with the recalled flour were also subsequently recalled.
- Salmonella Virchow linked to shake and meal products
Six of the 33 Salmonella Virchow cases linked to an organic supplier required hospitalization. The company recalled several lots of the product in chocolate, original, vanilla, and vanilla chai.
- Salmonella linked to sprouts from contaminated seed lot
One seed lot was found responsible for alfalfa sprouts that were contaminated with Salmonella Muenchen and Salmonella Kentucky. The final CDC report on the outbreak came out in May 2016, and said there were 26 confirmed cases across 12 states. The company responsible withdrew all its products from the market.
- Multi-drug resistant Salmonella Heidelberg infections linked to bull calves
Late in the year, the CDC announced 21 confirmed cases of Salmonella Heidelberg in eight states that were notable for being resistant to multiple drugs and involved contact with bull calves. Epidemiologic trace-back and laboratory findings identified dairy bull calves from livestock markets in Wisconsin as the likely source of the infections.
For more information on these outbreaks, click here.
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