Foodborne Illnesses Continue Downward Trend; 2010 Health Goals for E. coli 0157 Reached


A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed important declines in foodborne infections due to common bacterial pathogens in 2004. 


For the first time, cases of E. coli O157 infections, one of the most severe foodborne diseases, are below the national Healthy People 2010 health goal.  From 1996-2004, the incidence of E. coli O157 infections decreased 42 percent. Campylobacter infections decreased 31 percent, Cryptosporidium dropped 40 percent, and Yersinia decreased 45 percent.


Overall, Salmonella infections dropped 8 percent, but only one of the

five most common strains declined significantly. Different Salmonella

strains are found in a variety of animal hosts and in different

geographic locations. Further efforts are needed to better understand

why some Salmonella strains tend to contaminate produce during

production and harvest. FDA has recently developed a plan to decrease

foodborne illnesses associated with fresh produce. To better control

foodborne pathogens in animals and plants, prevention efforts should be

implemented across the farm to table continuum.



"This report is good news for Americans and underscores the importance

of investments in food safety.  Our efforts are working and we're making

progress in reducing foodborne illnesses," said CDC Director Dr. Julie

Gerberding. "However, foodborne disease is still a significant cause of

illness in the United States and further efforts are needed to sustain

and extend these important declines and to improve prevention of

foodborne illnesses."



"The continued reduction in illnesses from E. coli O157 is a tremendous

success story and we are committed to continuing this positive trend in

the future," said USDA Secretary Mike Johanns. "These results

demonstrate that through innovative policies and strong and consistent

enforcement of inspection laws, we are protecting the public's health

through a safer food supply."



Several factors have contributed to the decline in foodborne illnesses.

USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service implemented a series of new

recommendations beginning in 2002 to combat E. coli O157 in ground beef

and Listeria in ready-to-eat products. In response, most establishments

have significantly enhanced their food safety systems.  Many have

applied new technologies to reduce or eliminate pathogens and have

increased their testing to ensure the effectiveness of control measures.

Furthermore, these improvements likely reflect industry efforts to

reduce E. coli O157 in live cattle and during slaughter. 


The reduction in Campylobacter infections may be due to greater consumer

awareness of safe poultry handling and cooking methods.  Food safety

education efforts targeted to specific foodborne hazards as well as

general consumer tips, such as the public-private Fight Bac campaign,

have helped consumers become more aware and knowledgeable of food safety

hazards and how to prevent them.


The incidence of Shigella, which is found in a wide variety of foods,

did not change significantly from 1996 through 2004. Vibrio infections

increased 47 percent. Vibrio infections, which are primarily associated

with consumption of certain types of raw shellfish, can be prevented by

thoroughly cooking seafood, especially oysters.



In 1996, the FoodNet surveillance system began collecting valuable

information to quantify, monitor, and track the incidence of laboratory

confirmed cases of foodborne illnesses caused by Campylobacter,

Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, E. coli O157, Listeria, Shigella, Yersinia

and Vibrio.  Since its inception, FoodNet has grown to include ten

states and 44 million people, about 15 percent of the American



The full report, "Preliminary FoodNet Data on the Incidence of

Infections with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food - Selected

Sites, United States, 2004" appears in this week's Morbidity and

Mortality Weekly Report (April 15, 2005) and is available online at 


Source: CDC

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