Entries in Foodborne Illnesses (4)


Cargill's Salmonella Setback Shows Strength of Screening

USDA(SPRINGDALE, Ark.) -- Despite beefed-up safety measures in the wake of an August salmonella outbreak, Cargill Inc. has recalled more ground turkey tainted with the same bacterial strain. But this time, nobody got sick.

This is a significant credit to strict screening by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cargill announced the voluntary recall Sunday after a sample from its Springdale, Ark., processing plant tested positive for the salmonella Heidelberg strain, an antibiotic-resistant strain that killed one person and sickened 107 more earlier this summer.

The August outbreak prompted a recall of 36 million pounds of ground turkey and a crackdown on food safety measures by the USDA. The new contamination, which has not caused any known sickness, prompted a much smaller recall of about 185,000 pounds of poultry, but has irked Cargill officials nonetheless.

After the August recall, Cargill dismantled and steam-cleaned affected equipment, boosted anti-bacterial washing and installed the most advanced sampling and monitoring system in the poultry industry. But the sneaky salmonella -- particularly sinister because of its resistance to typical drugs -- shows just how tough the fight against bacteria can be.

In May 2011, the food safety watchdog Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the USDA to start routinely testing ground meat and poultry for Heidelberg and three other hard-to-treat salmonella strains.

The USDA collected the recent Cargill samples and tested them for Heidelberg salmonella because of the previous recall. But the CSPI petition urges the agency to classify the salmonella strains as adulterants, which is a designation that would make contaminated products illegal and routine testing mandatory.

The USDA declared six strains of another food-borne bacteria, E. coli, adulterants, a move met with resistance from the meat industry because of the added cost of expanded screening programs.

"This is a big win for consumers," Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said in a statement. "In the wake of many recent food recalls caused by E. coli contamination, it is critical that we take the necessary steps to protect the health and well-being of all consumers."

Salmonella was responsible for eight of 11 food-borne outbreaks this year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. E.coli caused the other three.

Copyright 2011 ABC  News Radio


CDC Releases the Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks Report

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The CDC has released the Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks—United States, 2008 report in this week’s CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report essentially states the number of foodborne disease outbreaks and the agent and food groups most strongly associated with these outbreaks.

According to the report, during 2008 -- the most recent year for which foodborne outbreak data has been finalized -- there were 1,034 outbreaks reported.

These outbreaks resulted in 23,152 cases of illness and 22 deaths. Norovirus was the most common outbreak agent, followed by salmonella.

The top food groups associated with the most illnesses were fruits and nuts, vine vegetables and beef. The report also includes a full listing of the number of illnesses associated with each food category.

The CDC recommends that consumers and food handlers properly clean, separate, cook and chill foods in order to prevent foodborne illness.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bag Lunch a Foodborne Illness Risk for Kids, Study Finds

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Parents, take note: a simple sack lunch may increase the risk of foodborne illness for the young children who bring them into daycare and school, according to a new study.

University of Texas researchers took a temperature-measuring gun into nine of the state's child care centers to see if the sack lunches of more than 700 kids between the ages of 3 and 5 were cooler than about 40 degrees Fahrenheit -- a temperature cold enough to discourage the growth of germs responsible for a variety of foodborne illnesses -- about an hour and a half before they were to be eaten.

What they found after checking the temperature of foods that could harbor these bugs was that more than nine out of 10 of these items were kept at temperatures considered unsafe. They also found that even the lunches that included ice packs or were stored in a refrigerator were still usually warm enough to pose a concern.

"We thought it might be bad, but we did not know it was that bad," said study author Fawaz Almansour of the University of Texas at Austin Department of Nutritional Sciences.

"When the child comes back from the daycare center with a stomachache, they may think, 'Oh, maybe they caught a virus from someone else,'" Almansour said.  "You don't think what you pack at home would be the cause."

Foodborne illness is an issue of concern for all age groups.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 76 million people in the U.S. become ill from foodborne bugs every year, and about 5,000 of these cases are fatal.

But the authors of the study -- published online in the journal Pediatrics -- note that these illnesses are of special concern when it comes to young children.  CDC studies in 2009 found that children younger than 4 suffer food-related bacterial infection at a rate 4.5 times that experienced by adults 20 to 49.

Still, when it came to the question of how dangerous these sack lunches really were to kids, infectious disease experts not involved with the research said that while the issue is worth consideration, it should not be a reason for parents to panic.

"The risk from improperly refrigerated sack lunches is real, but relatively minor in the overall picture of foodborne illnesses," said Dr. Harley Rotbart, pediatric infectious diseases expert at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and author of Germ Proof Your Kids.  "The much greater risks come from inadequate handwashing -- by food preparers and food consumers -- and from home kitchen contamination of countertops, sinks and other inanimate objects with insufficiently cooked meat, chicken and fish."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


CDC Report: 48 Million Americans Contract Foodborne Illnesses Annually

Photo Courtesy - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(WASHINGTON) -- Roughly one-out-of-six Americans, or 48 million people, get sick from foodborne illnesses each year, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the 48 million people affected, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.

In the first report issued on the rates of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. since 1999, the CDC notes that although there are 31 known pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses, the majority of cases are caused by unspecified agents.

Furthermore, findings show that 90 percent of known pathogen illnesses are caused by only seven "bugs" -- the most common being the norovirus, which accounts for about 58 percent of annual known pathogen foodborne illnesses.  The other top four are salmonella, C. perfringens, Campylobacter spp., and Staphylococcus aureus, the pathogen responsible for staph infections.

Over the past decade, the rate of foodborne illnesses caused by many known pathogens has decreased by 20 percent, but the CDC emphasizes that there is a need for greater emphasis on prevention.  Reducing foodborne illnesses by just one percent  would keep 500,000 Americans from getting sick each year.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio