Food Borne Illness Decline Slows as Nation Awaits Food Safety Rules

The progress made in cutting down on food borne contamination has slowed as food safety rule implementation also stalls.

Emerging data reveals that the progress made in minimizing food borne contamination has slowed down over the past six months, said Bloomberg News. Food borne illness cases remained unchanged last year from cases seen in 2006-2008, slowing from previously recorded “substantial declines” based on early data just released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In some cases, incidents increased, including a 43 percent increase in the bacterial infection, in vibrio, commonly attributed to consumption of raw oysters.

“There’s not a lot of recent progress to talk about,” Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC’s division of food borne, waterborne, and environmental diseases, told Bloomberg News in an interview. “That means there’s more that could be done,” Tauxe noted.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News pointed out that the Obama administration has not fully enacted 2011’s Food Safety Modernization Act. The Act was the first U.S. food safety revamp in over 70 years and was signed into law in January 2011.

This year, the Administration proposed the first key regulations, called for by Congress following a number of food borne related illnesses that killed nine people and sickened more than 700 in 2008 and 2009, said Bloomberg News.

One regulatory proposal made on January 4 was meant to implement the heart of the Act and would provide firms one year to create a formal plan for prevention food illness causes. The second mandates that farms with a “high risk” of contamination develop new hygiene, soil, and temperature controls. “Both of these are important and when they begin to be adopted, we hope that will help,” Tauxe told Bloomberg News.

Meanwhile, neither measure has taken effect and neither have any of the Act’s other major provisions. The Obama administration has said that additional rules under the law are expected to be released later this year, said Bloomberg News.

According to the CDC, some 19,531 food borne infections, 4,563 hospitalizations, and  68 deaths were reported based on surveillance data from laboratory-confirmed infections at 10 U.S. sites, said Bloomberg News. The sites are a representative sample covering about 15 percent of the nation’s population—some 48 million people. Meanwhile, many food borne illness cases continue to go unreported.

As we’ve written, a number of issues are leaving Americans vulnerable to food borne infection outbreaks, with reporting of these illnesses being, at best, inconsistent, and leaving most consumers vulnerable before health officials can identify outbreaks and recall contaminated foods.

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