July 30, 2012 — A new report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that almost all types of food poisoning have been rising in the last few years. Although most illnesses are down significantly since 1996, when tracking began, illnesses have been on the rise for the last five years. Since 2007, the rate of Salmonella, Campyolbacter, and Listeria and many strains of E. coli have been increasing.
Preliminary government data for 2011 shows that there were 48 million cases of food poisoning. The incidence of Salmonella poisoning rose to 16.5 cases per 100,000 people, from 14.5 cases in 1996. Cases of listeriosis and campylobacter poisoning also rose in recent years. Rates of Campylobacter illnesses have dropped nearly in half since 1996, but have been increasing since 2003.
The CDC found that Salmonella remains the most common source of food poisoning, with 1.2 million illnesses every year and $365 million in medical expenses. The second most common cause of food poisoning was Campylobacter.
According to a statement from the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), a consumer safety advocacy group, “The preliminary data indicates that reducing foodborne illnesses remains stalled, and for most of the major pathogens, seems to be moving in the wrong direction.” The agency is using the statistics to call for immediate progress on the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed by Congress in January 2010 but so far has not been implemented.
In some cases, the incidence of food poisoning may have been driven down by the industry voluntarily establishing and enforcing stricter standards. After several prominent E. coli outbreaks, the beef industry enacted a zero-tolerance policy for the bacteria. The incidence of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli has fallen by more than half. However, the poultry industry (which is responsible for many cases of Salmonella and Campylobacter poisonings) has not initiated as strict standards as the beef industry.
Most healthy adults can recover from food poisoning within about a week. In some cases, however, food poisoning can have deadly consequences for young children, the elderly, fetuses of pregnant women, or people with compromised immune systems. Diseases caused by food poisoning cause an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths per year.
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