Salmonella on the Rise in U.S.

Foodborne pathogens can be dangerous, sometimes deadly, leaving sufferers with food poisoning symptoms that range from gastrointestinal upsets to serious life-long health issues. Now, says the Washington Post, <"">Salmonella poisoning cases have increased by 10 percent. This, even though education campaigns have been targeted to consumers and food preparers and handlers.

The data comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) yearly report card on food safety, said The Washington Post, which noted that the CDC has been tracking the nine most common foodborne pathogens. According to the government, one in six Americans are sickened with food poisoning annually; of these, 3,000 people will die.

“The bottom line is that food-borne illness, particularly Salmonella, is far too common,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden speaking in a conference call with reporters yesterday. “We need to do more,” he added, quoted The Washington Post.

Data is derived nationally and is based on foodborne illnesses in 10 states. While Salmonella is up, E. coli O157:H7 infections dropped by half from 1997 to 2010, said The Washington Post, citing CDC information. Federal health officials feel this drop has to do with stricter government regulations, increased detection and investigation of this pathogen’s outbreaks, improved operations on the part of the food industry, and increased education of consumers and food workers, said The Washington Post.

“This report outlines some great progress that we’ve made,” said Elisabeth Hagen, undersecretary for food safety at the Agriculture Department (USDA), which regulates meat, poultry and some egg products. “But it also shows we have more work to do.”

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. The USDA is seeking a ban on the selling of raw beef contaminated with what public health officials call the “Big Six,” six virulent strains of nonO157 E. coli, said The Washington Post. Industry is against the proposal, which remains with the Office of Management and Budget.

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. “We think the major reason is the very large number of products that can be contaminated with Salmonella,” Frieden said, quoted The Washington Post.

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.

Meanwhile, we just reported that food safety watchdog group, The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) announced that it filed a regulatory petition asking the USDA)to deem “four antibiotic-resistant Salmonella strains as adulterants in ground meat and poultry” according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) wrote. The four strains are: Salmonella Heidelberg, Newport, Hadar, and Typhimurium; all have been linked with foodborne illness outbreaks, said CIDRAP.

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