During the past three years, the amount of food-borne illnesses has increased. This has made it more pressing for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is the nation’s food safety system, to change so that they can have a better way to deal with this disturbing trend.
Robert Tauxe, the deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Food-borne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, says that there should be more done at all the levels of the movement of food in the food chain in order to stop bacterial contamination.
Beginning in 1996, the agency has been keeping track of the number of people diagnosed with infections that were caused by eight bacteria and three parasites found in food. Several of the illnesses had decreased in numbers until 2004, when they started going up and have remained steady. These include illnesses caused by salmonella, vibrio, E coli 0157 and cambylobacter.
The first data of 2008 showed that the infection rates for five food-borne illnesses had surpassed national goals that were set by the CDC. For example, in 2008, the goal for salmonella cases was 7 illnesses for every 100,00 people, but the number was an astounding 16. This data did not include the outbreak of the salmonella illness that was due to the tainted peanut products which started at the end of last year and climaxed in the beginning months of this year. Almost 700 people became sick and 9 were killed.
Tauxe claimed that there are several elements behind this upswing, three being the complexity of the U.S. food chain, the ever changing character of bacteria and the increase of imports. The intricacy of the problem is causing many varieties of food to become contaminated, which includes more produce and some new foods that have not been affected in the past.
The study found that children under 4 are especially vulnerable to food-borne pathogens. Also, adults over 50 are more likely to be hospitalized and die from similar illnesses. According to Tauxe, some of the ways children can become infected is by living with pet turtles or reptiles, riding in shopping carts that have raw poultry and meats, or from day care centers, where other children or day care employees are not washing their hands properly.
Salmonella still remains the most common culprit of food poisoning. There was more than 7,400 lab-confirmed illnesses in the states that were tracking the illnesses. CDC officials said that there hasn’t been a substantial change in the rate of salmonella cases in recent years.
The two kinds of bacterial infections that were the second and third most common food-borne illnesses are campylobacter and shigella. These happen at rates of around 13 and 7 per 100,000.