CDC reports food-borne illnesses from known pathogens

Sep 23, 2011
by WLJ

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported food-borne agents cause an estimated 48 million illnesses annually in the U. S., including 9.4 million illnesses from known pathogens.

CDC collects data on foodborne disease outbreaks submitted from all states and territories through the Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System.

During 2008, the most recent year for which data are finalized, 1,034 food-borne disease outbreaks were reported, which resulted in 23,152 cases of illness, 1,276 hospitalizations, and 22 deaths.

Among the 479 outbreaks with a laboratory-confirmed single etiologic agent reported, norovirus was the most common, accounting for 49 percent of outbreaks and 46 percent of illnesses.

Salmonella was the second most common, accounting for 23 percent of outbreaks and 31 percent of illnesses.

Among the 218 outbreaks attributed to a food vehicle with ingredients from only one of 17 defined food commodities, the top commodities to which outbreaks were attributed were poultry (15 percent), beef (14 percent), and finfish (14 percent).

However, the top commodities to which outbreakrelated illnesses were attributed were fruits and nuts (24 percent), vine-stalk vegetables (23 percent), and beef (13 percent).

Since 1992, CDC has defined a food-borne disease outbreak as the occurrence of two or more similar illnesses resulting from ingestion of a common food. State, local, and territorial health department officials use a standard, Internet-based form to voluntarily submit reports of food-borne outbreaks to CDC.

Of the total number of outbreak-related foodborne illnesses, 1,276 (6 percent) resulted in hospitalization. Salmonella was the most common cause of outbreakrelated hospitalizations, causing 62 percent of hospitalizations reported, fol lowed by Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (17 percent) and norovirus (7 percent).

Outbreaks caused by Clostridium botulinum resulted in the highest proportion of persons hospitalized (90 percent), followed by Listeria outbreaks (76 percent).

Among the 22 deaths associated with food-borne disease outbreaks in 2008, there were 20 attributed to bacterial etiologies, including 13 Salmonella, three Listeria monocytogenes, three STEC (two O157, one O111), and one Staphylococcus. There was one death attributed to norovirus, and one to a mycotoxin.

This report includes outbreaks in which the first illness occurred in 2008 and the outbreaks were reported to CDC by June 28, 2011.

A food vehicle was reported for 481 (47 percent) outbreaks, among which the food vehicle could be assigned to one of the 17 commodities in 218 (45 percent) of the outbreaks.

The pathogen-commodity pairs responsible for the most outbreaks were norovirus in leafy vegetables (18 outbreaks), ciguatoxin in finfish (14), STEC O157 in beef (12), and Salmonella in poultry (11).

The pathogen-commodity pairs responsible for the most outbreak-related illnesses were Salmonella in vine-stalk vegetables (1,604 illnesses) and Salmonella in fruits-nuts (1,401).

Among the 868 outbreaks with a known single setting where food was consumed, 52 percent resulted from food consumed in a restaurant or deli, 15 percent in a private home, and the remainder in other locations.

Among the 481 outbreaks for which a food vehicle was identified, 19 (4 percent) resulted in product recalls. The recalled foods were beef (five outbreaks), dietary supplements (two), cantaloupe (two), alfalfa sprouts (two), and cereal, cheese, fish, jalapeño and serrano peppers, melon, pancakes, spices, and peanut butter and peanut paste (one each). — WLJ