CDC Tracked 1,000+ Food Poisoning Outbreaks in 2008

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just reported that the U.S. saw over 1,000
<"">food poisoning outbreaks in the most recent year studied, 2008.

The 1.000+ outbreaks resulted in 23,152 illness, almost 1,300 hospitalizations, and 22 deaths, said WebMD. The numbers are likely higher since most food poisonings are not reported. The CDC estimates that contaminated foods cause closer to 48 million illnesses each year, said WebMD.

The CDC describes a foodborne outbreak as at least two cases in which similar illnesses are reported and related to a common food, said WebMD. Using this description, said the CDC, about 24 outbreaks were reported from every state or territory in 2008. And, as staggering as the numbers are, the total was 10% less than the average number reported from 2003 to 2007, said WebMD; 2008 outbreak-related illnesses were down by 5%.

Of the outbreaks, 17 crossed state lines, said the CDC; 9 were caused by the Salmonella pathogen and the foods identified in six outbreaks included cantaloupe, cereal, ground turkey, ground white pepper, jalapeño and serrano peppers, and peanut butter. Food sold in restaurants or delis led to more than half of the 868 outbreaks linked to one location, while 15% were blamed on home cooking, explained WebMD.
Poultry (32 cases), beef (31 cases), and fish (30 cases) were the three most common foods blamed on reported outbreaks, as has been the situation every year in the past decade, said health officials, wrote WebMD. Fruits and nuts (1,755) were linked to the most illnesses, followed by vine vegetables (1,622), and beef (952). Fruit, nut, and vegetable Salmonella contamination led to over 3,000 illnesses, WebMD added.
Of the 22 deaths, 13 were definitively caused by Salmonella, 3 by Listeria, and one each was linked to norovirus and to mycotoxin, a fungal substance. Salmonella poisoning led to the most hospitalizations (62%) and E. coli and norovirus led to 17% and 7% of hospitalizations, explained WebMD. A single or likely cause was identified by health officials in 666 reported outbreaks with a little less than half linked to viruses and 44% to bacteria, said WebMD. Norovirus was the most common disease in the confirmed single-cause outbreaks (233 cases); Salmonella was linked to 110 cases.

The New York Times previously wrote that the national foodborne illness national monitoring system found that illnesses in 2010 from rare, nonO157 E. coli bacteria related to the same group that spawned the virulent strain recently seen in Germany, are on the rise. We have also previously stated that Salmonella poisoning cases have increased by 10 percent, despite education campaigns targeted to consumers and food preparers and handlers.

Although declines have been seen in E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks, other strains of that dangerous foodborne pathogen have risen, said Chris Braden, director of CDC’s division of food-borne, water-borne and environmental diseases. Federal officials are not sure why Salmonella is presenting increasing problems, but do note its pervasiveness and that it can present in a wide array of foods. Salmonella leads to some 1.2 million cases of Salmonellosis annually with victims generally under the age of five and costs—in direct medical costs—about $365 million annually, said the CDC.

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