Food Safety Gets Trendy: Highlights from the Annual Trend Report
By Dana L. Pitts, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Food poisoning, sometimes known as foodborne illness, can happen anywhere, to anyone, and from foods we might not expect.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works with federal, state, and local partners to collect information about how many people get sick each year from different foodborne germs, or germs found in food. The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) provides important data for tracking these foodborne illnesses.
Report Card for Food Safety
Each year, FoodNet reports the changes in the number of people with foodborne infections that were confirmed by laboratory tests. This information lets CDC, its partners, and policy makers know how much progress has been made in reaching national goals for reducing foodborne illness.
Highlights of the 2012 FoodNet Data
Data from FoodNet, which accounts for 15% of the US population, provide the best measure of trends in foodborne disease in the United States. Trends show if illnesses are increasing or decreasing. Overall, the 2012 FoodNet data showed a lack of recent progress in reducing foodborne infections and highlights the need for improved prevention.
- FoodNet identified 19,531 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection.
- Campylobacter was the second most common infection reported in FoodNet. Incidence of infection was 14% higher in 2012 compared with 2006–2008.
- Vibrio infections, while rare, were 43% higher in 2012 compared with 2006–2008.
- You can prevent Vibrio infections by thoroughly cooking oysters and by not exposing wounds to warm seawater.
When compared to the first three years of FoodNet surveillance (1996–1998), the 2012 data shows some clear changes:
- The overall incidence of infection of six key foodborne pathogens (Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, STEC O157, Vibrio, and Yersinia) was 22% lower.
- The overall incidence of Salmonella was unchanged.
- The incidence of Vibrio infection is now 116% higher.
Recent Efforts and Next Steps
Most foodborne illnesses can be prevented. Some progress has been made in decreasing contamination of some foods and reducing illness caused by some pathogens. Recent efforts to reduce contamination of food include:
- Establishing performance standards for Campylobacter contamination of whole broiler chickens in processing plants in 2011.
- Approving more stringent time and temperature controls for oysters after harvest to prevent Vibrio vulnificus infections.
- Passing the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011.
- The act gives FDA additional authority to regulate food facilities, establish standards for safe produce, recall contaminated foods, and oversee imported foods.
- It calls on CDC to strengthen surveillance and outbreak response.
More can be done. It is important to determine where to target prevention efforts, which requires continued collection of information to understand sources of infection, implementation of measures known to reduce food contamination, and development of new measures.
Dana L. Pitts is the Associate Director of Communications in the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases of the CDC.