Research shows little headway on foodborne illnesses - The Packer

Research shows little headway on foodborne illnesses

05/31/2012 09:45:00 AM
Coral Beach

An extensive review of foodborne disease surveillance since 1996 shows less than desired progress in slowing the incidence of foodborne illnesses and suggests education is one of the best preventive measures.

Analysis of the data shows that limited resources at local and state levels is a primary roadblock to progress, said Barbara Mahon, deputy chief of the enteric diseases epidemiology branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mahon helped coordinate the review of data from the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, better known by its nickname, FoodNet. Federal health officials issue a report card every year on the fight against foodborne illnesses, but this year a more detailed approach resulted in the CDC publishing 18 research reports on data from FoodNet.

The reports are not currently available to the general public. They are in the June issue of “Clinical Infectious Diseases” published by the Oxford Journals. An overview and abstracts of individual reports are available at

“The bottom line is that there isn’t one bottom line,” Mahon said. “The research illustrates FoodNet’s role as a foundation for food safety in this country. ... The scope of information it provides is so broad.”

FoodNet is a collaberative program between the CDC, 10 state health departments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration. FoodNet staff in state health departments work with state labs to gather and report information about foodborne illnesses.

Mahon said FoodNet data is used to assess the effect of food safety initiatives related to foodborne illness.

FoodNet, founded in 1995, collects data that represent 15% of the U.S. population. In-depth analysis of FoodNet data on six foodborne pathogens tracked from 1996 through 2010 showed an overall 23% drop in incidents. However, officials are concerned because the rate of decrease slowed to 3% after 2006.

None of the research papers suggested any specific remedies for the fresh produce industry. One report on illness patterns based on gender showed women are more likely than men to eat fresh produce, but only one “high-risk” food — alfalfa sprouts — was consumer more often by women than men.

Mahon said the “richness of the data collected by FoodNet goes beyond the annual reports” that it has traditionally generated. For example, one of the 18 research papers documents a dramatic decline in the number of black children in Georgia contracting infections related to improperly cooked chitterlings.

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earth  |  June, 01, 2012 at 04:18 PM

The general consensous that the article seems to be coming to is that education is the key to minimising foodborn illness. The segments of the population being sighted are the general public who consume food and the doctors who treat the illnesses. Then why does the focus of the governments efforts seem to fall mainly on the producers? My theory is that it is politically easier and financially more beneficial for the government to regulate the producers rather than deal with the general public(who vote). Soon enough you wil regulate the producers out of business and never solve the foodborn illness issues. You will create bigger problems. What will the big regulatoring government do when those who pay the most taxes go under and the well runs dry?

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