CDC reports produce causes 46% of foodborne illnesses - The Packer

CDC reports produce causes 46% of foodborne illnesses

01/29/2013 05:09:00 PM
Coral Beach

“We use these types of reports as a tool to help identify research that needs to be done,” she said. “We are issuing our annual call for research proposals Friday (Feb. 1) so this timing works well.”

The CDC researchers estimate 9.6 million annual illnesses related to foods. For analysis purposes, they split produce into subgroups of:

  • fruits-nuts;
  • fungi;
  • leafy vegetables;
  • root vegetables;
  • sprouts; and
  • vine-stalk vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.)

The data shows leafy vegetables were associated with more illnesses than any other single commodity with 2.1 million cases estimated annually. That represents 23% of the annual foodborne illnesses the CDC estimates are caused by food.

Means pointed to the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement as an example of how that segment of the industry has aggressively addressed food safety. She also cited the Produce Traceability Initiative as another move by industry to enhance food safety.

Chief executive officer of the LGMA Scott Horsfall posted a statement on the organization’s website in response to the CDC’s report. He said that 99% of leafy greens grown in California are covered by the agreement and that many foodborne illness outbreaks come from contamination introduced after fresh produce has left the farm.

“According to this report, Norovirus is responsible for 57% of foodborne illness cases; this particular pathogen is almost always spread via food handling after the produce leaves the farm,” Horsfall’s statement says.

After leafy vegetables, the commodities linked to the most illnesses were dairy with an estimated 1.3 million illnesses representing 14% of the total, and fruits/nuts with 1.2 million illnesses representing 12% of the total.

The CDC researchers concluded that an estimated 629 food-related deaths annually, or 43%, are linked to land animals. All plants, which includes the produce subgroups and grains, beans, sugars and oils, accounted for 363 deaths, or 25%. About 94 deaths, or 6%, were linked to aquatic commodities.

Meat-poultry commodities accounted for 29% of deaths and produce accounted for 23%, the CDC reported. Poultry accounted for the most deaths at 19%, followed by dairy at 10%, vine-stalk vegetables at 7%, fruits/nuts at 6%, and leafy vegetables at 6%.

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California Leafy Greens    
Sacramento, CA  |  January, 29, 2013 at 07:11 PM

Our response to CDC Report: Leafy greens food safety - a shared responsibility:

January, 29, 2013 at 09:29 PM

Is it a mere coincidence that the very day the CDC publishes this report there happens to be a related listeria outbreak? I think not. Unbelievable.

Coral Beach    
The Packer  |  January, 30, 2013 at 09:34 AM

Mark, The sprout recall story The Packer posted yesterday, Jan. 29, specifically states no illnesses have been reported. There is not an outbreak associated with the recall. Coral Beach, staff writer

January, 30, 2013 at 02:09 PM

Does this mean there's new legislation coming banning "Assault" greens?

Russ Studebaker    
Fredericksburg, TX  |  January, 30, 2013 at 04:51 PM

So if I am reading this right produce caused 145 deaths in a population of 330 million people. Statistically that is an excellent number. What is the problem?

Chuck Niwrad    
Fresno, CA  |  January, 31, 2013 at 11:40 AM

Wish CDC wouldn't combine fruits and nuts as a single category. No offense to nut growers, but tree fruit suffers from the association. What is the justification for that? These are two very different commodity groups in terms of production and handling.

Coral Beach    
The Packer newsroom  |  January, 31, 2013 at 11:50 AM

Chuck, I checked on that very point with the CDC. Their spokeswoman explained in an e-mail: "Fruits and nuts are grouped together to limit total number of commodities. Difficult choices, of course. As I recall, they may have been grouped together, in part, because many varieties of each are harvested from trees," -- CDC spokeswoman. I hope this helps you understand their methodology. Coral Beach, staff writer

Chuck Niwrad    
Fresno, CA  |  January, 31, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Thanks Staff Writer. That would explain it, and it also highlights the often superficial understanding of agriculture applied to such things.

Food Safety Reality    
February, 13, 2013 at 02:37 PM

So let's do the math people. The real headline should be: Number of US deaths attributed to food borne illness is .0006 percent. How much money are we wasting on food safety?

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