On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a rise in food poisonings in 2012. The cause: Two strands of bacteria—one commonly found in livestock such as cows and chickens, the other in seafood such as oysters.
An estimated 48 million Americans—or about 15 percent of the
population—experience some kind of food poisoning each year, with only a
handful of that number requiring hospitalization.
Overall, there were 19,531 cases of infection confirmed by a
laboratory in 2012, which resulted in 4,500 hospitalizations and 68 deaths. In 2011, there were 18,964 cases.In
2008, there were 18,624 cases.
The rise in confirmed incidences of food poisonings
is pushing experts to continue to fight for stricter safety standards in the
processing and handling of food.
In its annual FOODNet report, the CDC stated the increase “showed
a lack of recent progress in reducing foodborne infections and highlight the
need for improved prevention.”
Food poisoning causes an array of symptoms
that affect the digestive system, such as nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps.
Severe problems typically only occur in children, the elderly, or people with comprised immune systems.
Campylobacter and Vibrio on
The CDC reported a 14 percent increase of food poisoning
caused by the Campylobacter bacteria
and a 43 percent increase in Vibrio
Campylobacter is a
group of bacteria that typically causes diarrhea. It’s found in the intestines
of livestock—most commonly chickens—and pets, although infected animals have no
symptoms. The infection a problem when extended periods of diarrhea can cause
dehydration and other complications. The CDC report states Campylobacter was highest among children under five years old.
normally lives in seawater and is ingested through contaminated seafood, like
oysters. It causes typical food poisoning symptoms in healthy people, but it
can cause more severe complications in people with compromised immune systems.
It’s typically rare, but like all forms of food poisoning, it’s under reported.
Compared to the first three years of FoodNet surveillance
(1996-1998), the incidence of Vibrio
infections has risen 116 percent. However, incidences of other foodborne
pathogens, such as Salmonella, was
either unchanged or lowered.
However, the CDC estimates,
that for every Campylobacter infection confirmed in the lab, another 30 cases
aren’t diagnosed. For Vibrio, it’s as
many as 142 unreported cases for each confirmed one.
More Room For Improvement
Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC’s foodborne
disease division, said Thursday that despite industry and regulation changes
that have addressed specific problems and new regulations should better improve
the disease rates.
“This information helps us know how we're doing in reducing
foodborne illness and what germs or pathogens are most responsible for those
illnesses,” he said in a teleconference with reporters. “Following the
trends over time, which pathogens are increasing, infections decreasing or
staying the same offers some insights to many partners on how to save lives and
The CDC isn’t alone in saying the latest numbers show room
for improvement in food safety practices.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest called the
rise in Campylobacter and Vibro “troubling,” not because of the
number of cases, but because of the significant illness it causes. The watchdog
group called for better controls in the food industry, including testing
chicken flocks for the bacteria.
The Food Safety
Modernization Act of 2011 gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration more
authority to regulate food industries. One change included adhering to Campylobacter contamination standards of
chickens in processing plants.
The latest foodborne outbreak involved a possible E. coli contamination of Rich Farm and
Market Day products. The company, Rich Products Corporation in Buffalo, N.Y., issued
a recall earlier this month for all products produced at their processing
plant in Waycross, Geo., with the best-buy dates ranging from Jan. 1, 2013, to
Sept. 29, 2014.
Ensuring Your Food Is Safe
“It's important to also note that consumers have a role to
play following simple food safety guidelines for the foods they prepare for
themselves and others, especially when they prepare them for people at higher
risk for severe illness,” Tauxe said.
Food poisoning is best prevented through proper handling and
storage. Some ways to keep your family safe include:
Properly washing hands, utensils and all produce
(even if it’s bagged)
Avoiding cross-contamination with produce and