Some Food-Borne Illnesses Down, Some Up

The CDC says some food-borne illnesses are declining in
the U.S., while others are holding steady or increasing.

The CDC today released its preliminary 2006 food-borne illness data from 10
states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New
Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Tennessee.

A total of 17,252 confirmed cases of food-borne illness were reported in
those states in 2006, according to the CDC. The most commonly reported
illnesses were:

  • Salmonella: 6,655 cases

  • Campylobacter: 5,712 cases

  • Shigella: 2,736 cases

  • Cryptosporidium: 859 cases

  • E. coli 0157: 590 cases

  • E. coli non-0157: 209 cases

  • Yersinia: 158 cases

  • Vibrio: 154 cases

  • Listeria: 138 cases

  • Cyclospora: 41 cases

Trends in Food-borne Illnesses

The CDC also compared the preliminary 2006 data with data from 1996 to 1998
from the same 10 states.

In 2006, four food-borne illnesses -- yersinia, shigella, listeria, and
campylobacter -- were less common than they had been from 1996 to 1998. In
2006, reported yersinia infections were 50% rarer, shigella infections were 35%
rarer, listeria infections were 34% rarer, and campylobacter infections were
30% rarer than in 1996-1998.

However, vibrio infections, which are usually associated with shellfish,
rose 78%.

"We will be doing some additional epidemiology to better understand the
sources of vibrio infection and what we need to do to reduce the risk
associated with that," CDC Director Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, said in a
news conference.

E. coli Rates

Reported cases of three other food-borne illnesses -- salmonella, E.
0157, and cryptosporidium -- were similar in 2006 and from 1996 to

However, E. coli infections had declined in 2003 and 2004, then rose
by 2006 to levels similar to those between 1996 and 1998.

That may be partly due to E. coli outbreaks last fall, notes Robert
Tauxe, MD, MPH, deputy director of the CDC's Division of Foodborne, Bacterial,
and Mycotic Disease.

"Two years ago, we were looking at what looked like a pretty good
success story for E. coli 0157," Tauxe says, crediting major
interventions to reduce in E. coli infection in ground beef.

"We conclude that this increase that we're seeing now ... must be
related to foods other than ground beef," Tauxe says.

Gerberding cautions that the data don't represent the entire U.S. and that
it would be incorrect to assume that the trends noted in the study are
happening nationwide.

The statistics appear in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly

Food Safety

"I think all of this is a reminder to consumers that while food safety
begins at the farm, it has to be carried forward into the home," Gerberding

"We have to be vigilant about the kind of hygiene in our kitchen and the
proper preparation and cooking of foods so that we reduce the risk,"
Gerberding says.

Here are food safety tips from the CDC:

  • Clean your hands, cutting boards, knives, sponges, and countertops

  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood and their juices away from other

  • Cook foods to proper temperatures.

  • Refrigerate foods promptly.

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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