Raw Milk, Poultry Contribute To Increased Food Poisoning Reports: CDC

Food borne illnesses caused by poultry and unpasteurized milk and cheese are on the rise in the United States, according to government health experts. 

The rate of food poisoning cases has increased by 14% over the last five years, according to a new report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report contains surveillance for 10 states, including approximately 15% of the American population, detailing information on laboratory-confirmed infections transmitted by food. It focuses on nine types of bacteria, summarized data compiled in 2012 and describes trends since 1996.

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According to the report, Campylobacter, a bacteria associated with poultry and diary, accounted for more than one-third of food illnesses in the 10 states examined and nearly one-tenth of the deaths. There were 193 cases were reported in 2012, resulting in 6 deaths. Officials are not exactly sure what is causing the increase, or which foods are specifically to blame.

The report, which was issued by the Food borne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) and released Friday, is compiled from 10 state health departments, the CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) and the FDA. Nearly 20,000 infections, 4,500 hospitalizations and 68 deaths associated with food borne illness were reported in 2012 alone.

Of the food borne diseases reported, children under the age of five and the elderly over the age of 65 are at the highest risk, with the highest incidences of sickness and hospitalization respectively.

Illnesses linked to meat-related food borne diseases were down, which can be attributed to the renewed focus many agencies have placed on studying bacteria in meat and focusing on common trends. While contaminated meat did account for fewer illnesses last year, it still accounted for 29% of the deaths from food borne illnesses overall.

Common culprits of food borne illness, Salmonella and E. Coli, had no increases in illnesses. Salmonella still remained the most infectious bacteria, accounting for 40% of infections in the FoodNet system. Campylobacter was the second most prevalent resulting in 35% of the illnesses reported.

Another bacteria that accounted for many illnesses was Vibrio; a bacteria commonly found in undercooked shellfish. It thrives in warm sea water and most of the illnesses are a result of eating raw oysters.

The CDC points to this report as a reliable indicator for food borne illness trends, calling it the “nation’s annual food safety report card.”

The risks associated with food poisoning are becoming increasingly more relevant, as nearly 48 million Americans, or one in six people, become ill from contaminated food each year. Approximately 3,000 will die as a result, many experiencing common symptoms from food borne illnesses such as diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

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