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

(UPDATED COVERAGE, Jan. 31) Research on a decade of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. shows 46% were caused by produce, with produce accounting for 23% of food-related deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

Data from 1998-2008 is included in a paper written by CDC officials and published in the journal “Emerging Infectious Diseases” online at

However, another recent report from CDC included good news about food-related illnesses. It says the number of foodborne disease outbreaks reported in 2009 and 2010 declined 32% compared with the mean of the preceding five years.

The information in the CDC’s so-called illness attribution report needs to be considered in context, said David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

David GombasGombas“It is important to get this information out,” Gombas said, “but consumers need to remember that the industry has put a lot of new provisions in place since 2008 to improve food safety.”

Gombas also said the research demonstrates how much work is left to be done, especially in the area of education for those in the industry, as well as consumers.

“A lot of produce-related illnesses result from mishandling by consumers — the so-called church supper symdrome,” Gombas said, referring to foods being left at room temperature too long.

Kathy Means, vice president for government relations and public affairs for the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., agreed with Gombas about the context of the CDC information.

Kathy MeansMeans“This isn’t news news,” Means said. “It’s just packaged differently.

“Outbreaks linked to produce have spurred us to make food safety a top priority and to put that commitment into action. In the intervening five years, we’ve made great strides in food safety.”

Means pointed to the founding of Center for Produce Safety (CPS) at the University of California-Davis and millions of dollars the industry has invested to discover practical solutions to food safety.

The executive director of the CPS, Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, said the timing of the CDC’s information is fortuitous.

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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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