Battle against foodborne diseases gaining ground, study shows

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Escherichia coli Foodborne illness

Incidents of many foodborne illness have declined since statistical
collection began in 1996, with rates for some of the most common
pathogens falling by up to 32 per cent.

However Listeria infection rates have started to climb again, according to preliminary data published by the federally-fundedFoodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet).

The declines could indicate that efforts byregulatory agencies and by manufacturers are workingto combat common foodborne pathogens. Concerns aboutthe safety of the food supply have led to increasedregulatory action to cut down the number of illnessesand death caused by pathogens.

FoodNet's data show rates of illnesses caused by Listeriadecreased 32 per cent, Campylobacter decreased by 30per cent, E. coli O157 by 29 per cent and Salmonellaby nine per cent in the period to 2005. The data wascollected from 10 states, representing about 15 percent of the US population.

Incidence of infections caused by Campylobacter,Listeria, Salmonella, toxin-producing Escherichia coliO157 (STEC O157), Shigella, and Yersinia has declined,and Campylobacter and Listeria incidences areapproaching levels targeted by federal health agencies, the agency concluded.

"Several important food safety initiativesmight have contributed to the declines, indicatingprogress toward meeting the national healthobjectives,"​ FoodNet stated.

However, most of the declines occurred before2005, and Vibrio infections have increased, indicatingthat further measures are needed to prevent foodborneillness, the research unit warned.

Most of the decline in Campylobacter incidenceoccurred by 2001, with continued small decreases sincethen. The incidence of Listeria infections in 2005 ishigher than its lowest point in 2002. The incidence rate for Listeria infections in 2005 ishigher than its lowest point in 2002.

Of the five most common Salmonella serotypes, onlyTyphimurium has declined, with most of the declineoccurring by 2001. Most of the decline in STEC O157incidences occurred during 2003 and 2004.

The observed sustained increase in Vibrioincidence indicates that additional efforts are neededto prevent Vibrio infections. Oysters are the mostimportant source of human Vibrio infections. Measuresthat reduce Vibrio contamination of oysters alsoprevent illness.

FoodNet calculated the rates by comparing datacollected in 2005 to the baseline years of 1996 to1998.

In commenting on the estimates the American MeatInstitute (AMI) noted other government figuresindicated that the incidence of bacteria on meat andpoultry products has also decreased significantly. Theincidence of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef samplestested by USDA has declined by 80 per cent since1999.

Meanwhile the incidence of Salmonella in groundbeef has declined 75 per cent since 1998. Theincidence of Listeria monocytogenes on ready-to-eatmeat and poultry has declined from 4.5 per cent in1990 to 0.55 per cent in 2004, the AMI stated.

"These declines in foodborne illness continuesto validate the efforts throughout the industry andgovernment to reduce the incidence of foodbornepathogens on meat and poultry products and keep USmeat products among the safest in the world,"​ saidPatrick Boyle, chief executive and president of the organisation.

In 2005, a total of 16,614 laboratory-confirmedcases of infections were reported to FoodNet in the 10 US states surveyed. Salmonella accounted for 6,471 cases,Campylobacter 5,655 cases, Shigella 2,078 cases,Cryptosporidium 1,313 cases, STEC O157 473 cases, Yersinia 159 cases, STEC non-O157 146 cases, Listeria 135 cases, Vibrio 119 cases and Cyclospora 65 cases.

Overall incidence per100,000 population was 14.55 for Salmonella, 12.72 for Campylobacter, 4.67 for Shigella, 2.95 for Cryptosporidium, 1.06 for STEC O157, 0.36 for Yersinia, 0.33 for STEC non-O157, 0.30 for Listeria,0.27 for Vibrio, and 0.15 for Cyclospora.

The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network(FoodNet) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collects data from 10 US states relating to diseasescaused by enteric pathogens transmitted commonlythrough food.

FoodNet estimates that each year Salmonella infectionaccounts for 1.4 million cases of illness in the US, 15,000 hospitalizations and 400 deaths. In a separate study, FoodNet estimated that 76 million cases of foodborne diseaseoccur each year in the US.

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