Despite food safety measures, the threat of foodborne illness remains in meat and produce — and some types of illness are on the rise.
About 48 million people contract some form of food poisoning each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Salmonella remained the top cause of foodborne illness last year, according to the CDC’s 2012 report card on food poisoning. However, the overall instance of Salmonella was unchanged from the 2006-08 data, the agency said. The report card is based on reports from 10 U.S. regions, representing about 15% of the country.
The second most common cause of illness was Campylobacter, which increased 14% over the 2006-08 data, the CDC said. Campylobacter lives on live chickens and can taint meat during slaughter; it can also be found in raw, unpasteurized milk.
Researchers from the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest examined data from foodborne illness outbreaks over a 12-year period and found between 1998 and 2010, meat and poultry products were linked to “at least 1,714 outbreaks involving 33,372 illnesses.”
That estimate may only be the tip of the iceberg, the group said, as people may not seek medical attention for food poisoning and cases go unrecorded. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has an online reporting tool for those who think they might have a foodborne illness.
“We applaud CSPI’s ongoing efforts to educate consumers about food safety,” Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, the USDA’s undersecretary for food safety, said in a statement.
“While we have made progress in making food safer — including cutting E. coli O157-related illnesses in half — we still have work to do. As Salmonella rates continue to stagnate, we look forward to CSPI’s support, and the support of other groups committed to food safety, of our efforts to reduce this dangerous foodborne pathogen, including modernization of the poultry inspection system.”
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