Foodborne Disease Outbreaks a Continuing Threat to U.S. Health

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FOODBORNE disease outbreaks continue to occur at an alarming rate in the United States, with more than 1,000 foodborne disease outbreaks nationwide in 2007, a recent study found. The outbreaks were linked to more than 21,000 illnesses and 18 deaths.

Published in the Aug. 12 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the statistics came out as two large Iowa farms were voluntarily recalling 500 million possibly salmonella-contaminated eggs that sickened people in multiple states. The outbreak drew attention to the continuing problem of food safety in the country and the need for federal action.

While the recent outbreak involved eggs, the August study linked poultry to the largest number of annual food-related illnesses, at about 690, followed by beef at 670 and leafy vegetables at 590. In many outbreaks, more than one food source was suspected to be to blame. In more than half of the outbreaks tracked by federal officials in 2007, the cause could not be determined.

"Knowing more about what types of foods and foodborne agents have caused outbreaks can help guide public health and the food industry in developing measures to effectively control and prevent infections and help people stay healthy," said Chris Braden, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases. …