Considerations for Avoiding Foodborne Illnesses

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As the summer celebrations begin, food safety remains vital to everyone.

In the United States, infections from major foodborne pathogens are responsible for an estimated 9.4 million illnesses, 56,000 hospitalizations, and 1350 deaths, according to CDC.1

And a study published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report states food borne illnesses increased in 2022 compared to previous years. Specifically, in 2022, these types of illnesses generally returned to or exceeded levels observed in 2016–2018, the study authors reported.

“During 2022, FoodNet identified higher incidences of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, Yersinia, Vibrio, and Cyclospora infections compared with 2016–2018. Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, and Listeria incidences did not change.”

FoodNet is an active surveillance network tracking trends for infections transmitted commonly through food. There are a number of organizations involved in this including the CDC, 10 state health departments, the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the FDA. This is not a complete reporting across the United States but a significant snapshot of incidence rates and what is being seen. In addition, it has long been believed foodborne illnesses have been underreported.2

The CDC authors noted that infection incidence was highest for Campylobacter followed by Salmonella pathogens. Poultry has been the most commonly identified source of Campylobacter infections and is also estimated to be the most common US source of Salmonella infections.

“The percentage of bacterial infections diagnosed using [culture-independent diagnostic test (CIDT)] increased from 49% during 2016–2018 to 73% in 2022,” the authors wrote. “The percentage of bacterial infections diagnosed using only CIDT increased from 26% during 2016–2018 to 41% in 2022.”

The authors noted a greater use of CIDT likely contributed to increased detection by identifying infections that would have remained undetected before widespread CIDT usage.

“Progress in reducing enteric infection incidence was not observed during 2022, as influences of the COVID-19 pandemic subsided,” the authors wrote. “Collaboration among food growers, processors, retail stores, restaurants, and regulators is needed to reduce pathogen contamination during poultry slaughter and to prevent contamination of leafy greens.”

What You Need to Know

According to a study published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the incidence of certain foodborne illnesses, such as those caused by Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, Yersinia, Vibrio, and Cyclospora, increased in 2022 compared to the 2016–2018 period.

Despite advancements in detection, there has been no significant progress in reducing the overall incidence of enteric infections, such as those caused by Campylobacter and Salmonella.

The summer season brings increased risks of foodborne illnesses due to outdoor activities like BBQs and picnics where food can be exposed to heat for extended periods. The CDC advises following its Four Steps to Food Safety—Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill—to mitigate these risks.

Summertime Brings Foodborne Pathogen Opportunities
For many, this weekend marks the unofficial start to the summer season. Many people will be attending BBQs, picnics, and events where food will be available.

And with these events, food can be sitting outside in the heat of the day—sometimes for hours at a time. And with this, comes the increased risk of foodborne illnesses. If that potato salad has been sitting out for hours, you may want to stay away from it.

And this is just one consideration. Food preparation is another significant area where foodborne pathogens can transmit illness. The CDC has the Four Steps to Food Safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. All these elements have specific food preparation guidance on the CDC website.

References
1. Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Surveillance for foodborne disease outbreaks United Sates, 2009–2010;Morb. Mortal. Wkly. Rep. 2013 62:41-47
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6203a1.htm?s_cid=mm6203a1_w

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