Foodborne Illnesses Decrease by 40 Percent in Past Decade, but There's Little Rejoicing
According to two sources, eating in the United States has become a lot safer over the past decade. This year, the Centers for Disease Control (CSPI) and Prevention (CDC) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest have released reports on food-borne illnesses. While the findings are good, experts say that we still have a long way to go.
According to the CSPI, food-borne illnesses have decreased by 40 percent over the past decade. That finding was augmented by a report released in January by the CDC, which stated that the number of food-borne disease outbreaks reported between 2009 and 2010 had decreased by 32 percent, when compared to the previous three years.
Investigators believe that the decline may be attributed to better food safety processes, as well as a new program called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) that has been implemented in the seafood, poultry and pork industries. Indeed, seafood, poultry and beef have reported the steepest declines, according to Food Quality News. Outbreaks related to produce, which provide the highest number of outbreaks, have remained flat.
So should we rejoice? Not yet, investigators say. Food-borne illnesses are notoriously underreported, because few people seek medical care for typical cases of food poisoning. In addition, as Food Safety News reports, the method for obtaining data changed to the National Outbreak Reporting System (NORS), which may be responsible for part of the shift. Moreover, outbreaks are only considered fully investigated once the pathogen and food source are identified. The number of full investigations decreased from 46 percent in 2001 to 33 percent in 2010.
"Despite progress made by the (food) industry and by food safety regulators, contaminated food is still causing too many illnesses, visits to the emergency room, and deaths," Caroline Smith DeWaal, the food safety director for the CSPI, said in a statement. "Yet state and local health departments and federal food safety programs always seem to be on the chopping block," she said. "Those financial pressures not only threaten the progress we've made on food safety, but threaten our very understanding of which foods and which pathogens are making people sick."