April Special Edition: Mixed Results on Nation's Food Safety Report Card

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CDC Data Essential in Fight Against Foodborne Illness 

April 2014 Special Edition

2013 Progress Report on Six Key Pathogens Compared to 2006-2008

Nation's annual Food Safety Report Card for 2013

Food safety grades show limited progress in 2013. More can be done.

The nation’s food safety grades are out and the results are mixed.   

Changes in incidence of laboratory-confirmed bacterial infections, US, 2013

CDC’s annual report card, produced by FoodNet (see article below to learn more about FoodNet) shows some recent progress in reducing Salmonella. (See chart at right which shows short-term comparison of 2013 rates to 2010-2012.)

Other pathogens have not shown similar success either in the short or long term and we could be losing ground on past progress in E.coli reduction.

There is a critical need to implement more prevention measures and keep a close eye on these trends over the next year.

Highlights from the 2013 FoodNet report include a comparison of rates for different time periods. For the short term, we compared 2013 with the rates of the preceding three years, 2010-2012. For the longer term, we compared 2013 with the 2006-2008 baseline period. We can even go back to the beginning of FoodNet in 1996.

  • Salmonella infections decreased by about nine percent in 2013 compared with the previous three years.
    o   Rates remained the same when compared to the longer term 2006-2008 baseline period
    o   Still well above the national goal for 2020 of 11.4 cases per 100,000 people
  • Campylobacter infections have risen 13 percent since 2006-2008.
    o   Often linked to contaminated chicken
  • Vibrio infections were at the highest level observed since active tracking began in 1996.
    o   Often linked to eating raw shellfish
    o   Rates of Vibrio vulnificus, the most severe strain, have remained steady.
  • E.coli infections continue to inch up and the progress noted from previous years has stalled.
    o   Still about 30 % lower than our FoodNet baseline year of 1996-1998
  •  Rates of the other foodborne infections tracked have not changed since 2006-2008.   

Read more about trends in tracking foodborne illness and this year's food safety report card.

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What is FoodNet and why do they track trends in foodborne infections?

The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) collects information to track rates and determine trends in laboratory-confirmed illnesses caused by nine pathogens transmitted commonly through food: Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, Listeria, Salmonella, STEC O157 and non-O157, Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia. Annual data are compared with data from a recent period (2006–2008) and with data from the preceding three years of surveillance (2010–2012) to measure progress.

FoodNet is a collaboration among CDC, ten state health departments, the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the Food and Drug Administration. FoodNet surveillance covers 48 million people, encompassing about 15 percent of the US population. The ten health departments represent the FoodNet surveillance sites and include the states of Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, and Tennessee, and selected counties in California, Colorado, and New York.

CDC data are essential to gauge how we’re doing in our

Each year, FoodNet reports on the changes in the number of people in the United States sickened with foodborne infections that have been confirmed by laboratory tests. This annual report card also lets CDC, its partners, and policy makers know how much progress has made in reaching national goals for reducing foodborne illness.

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The data behind this year's report card

Incidence and Trends of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food — Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, 10 U.S. Sites, 2006–2013

Relative rates of culture-confirmed infections from five pathogens compared with 2006-2008 rates.

This article, published in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is an annual summary of data collected by FoodNet to track rates and determine trends for nine infections.

FoodNet identifies all those infections that are diagnosed by laboratory testing of samples from patients, and also physician-diagnosed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

This report summarizes 2013 preliminary surveillance data and describes trends since 2006; the information contributes to our understanding of the human health impact of foodborne diseases.

Overall, in 2013, FoodNet logged just over 19,000 infections, 4,200 hospitalizations, and 80 deaths from the nine germs it tracks. Young children were the most affected group for seven of the nine germs that FoodNet tracks.

This information helps regulators, the food industry and consumers understand the progress we are making in preventing them.

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Million Hearts Initiative

Recent efforts and next steps

Most foodborne illnesses can be prevented. But continued efforts are needed to understand how contamination of fresh produce and processed foods occurs and to develop and implement measures that reduce it.

CDC is working with state health departments to develop and implement ways to detect and investigate outbreaks more quickly, so that the foods that cause outbreaks are identified quickly, and illnesses can be prevented. Farmers, the food industry, regulatory agencies, food service, consumers, and public health authorities all have a role to play in food safety.

What are some recent efforts to reduce foodborne illness? 

  • Establishment in 2011 of performance standards for Campylobacter contamination of whole broiler chickens in processing plants.
  • Approval of more stringent time and temperature controls for oysters after harvest to prevent Vibrio vulnificus infections.
  • The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011: It gives FDA additional authority to regulate food facilities, establish standards for safe produce, recall contaminated foods, oversee imported foods, and which requires improvements in surveillance and response to outbreaks. It calls on CDC to strengthen surveillance and outbreak response.
  • USDA-FSIS’ new strategies to address Salmonella contamination in meat and poultry: Salmonella Action Plan.
Refrigerator shelf with assorted food items.

What are some next steps to reduce foodborne illness?

There are many partners in prevention of foodborne illness, including state and federal public health authorities, the federal food regulatory authorities, the food industry, consumer and patient advocacy groups, and consumers themselves.

Enhanced measures are needed to:

Where can I get more information on this report and foodborne illness?

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