The latest CDC government study has targeted leafy green vegetables as the leading source of food poisoning illnesses, followed by contaminated poultry. People frequently get sick from eating green, leafy vegetables, which are advertised as being healthy and full of vitamins and minerals. But what most people are dying from related to contaminated food is contaminated poultry. The CDC recently identified leafy green vegetables as a top source of food-related illnesses.
On January 29, 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new study based on an analysis of food poisoning cases from 1998 through 2008. Check out the January 30, 2013 KOIN.com news station’s article, “Leafy greens top food-poisoning list.” Also see additional data from this study. See the site, The top-10 riskiest food-bacteria combinations.
If you’re worried about getting sick with the norovirus from eating salads or cut up pieces of fruit and vegetables, you’ll usually get it from the food handlers preparing the food, but often the contamination comes from the run-off water on the vegetables and fruits or animal droppings on the uncooked vegetables. Check out the site, FoodNet’s 2011 Progress Report on six key pathogens.
Contaminated green leafy vegetables and poultry
People may be getting sick most often off of leafy greens, they’re most-frequently dying from contaminated chicken and other poultry, according to the CDC. Check out the CDC’s 2011 food-safety details. Check out the study, “Foodborne illness acquired in the United States–major pathogens.” The study is published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2011.
The January 29, 2013 latest report is the CDC’s most comprehensive attempt to identify which foods most often carry germs that make us sick. The agency estimates roughly 1 in 6 Americans — or 48 million people — gets sick from food poisoning each year. That includes 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
In addition to the poisonings from contaminated packages of mixed green leafy vegetables, a few months ago, the CDC found cheese contaminated with listeria bacteria, salmonella in peanut butter, mangoes and cantaloupe, and other foods that have been linked to more than 400 illnesses and as many as seven deaths. Check out the site, About the CDC’s foodborne illness surveillance, response and data systems.
Food safety rules are ignored as norovirus spreads among food handlers
The public wants to know how to protect against food-borne illness other than washing the produce in water? Earlier in January the FDA released its new food-safety rules. The new rules set out to ensure that food workers’ hands are washed, irrigation water is clean, and animals stay out of food fields. But the rules aren’t stopping food handlers with passing on to others the norovirus that is in their homes.
Some people come into work far too early when their vomiting symptoms are over, but when they’re still contagious for the next few days. Those with children at home with contagious viruses and bacterial infections may be bringing in the microbes on their clothing or bodies. And others don’t wash hands adequately, since hand sanitizer won’t kill the norovirus, but bleach will. See the site, National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.
One way food is contaminated is when people handle food at the same time they speak to co-workers or customers
The droplets of saliva are too small to be noticed, but they contaminate the food simply from talking while preparing or serving uncovered plates of food. Check out the USDA’s list of eight steps to preventing food illnesses once food gets to your home. Check out the CDC study, “Attribution of Foodborne Illnesses, Hospitalizations, and Deaths to Food Commodities by using Outbreak Data, United States, 1998–2008.”
The big problem for the CDC is that each year, more than 9 million foodborne illnesses are estimated to be caused by major pathogens acquired in the United States
Preventing these illnesses is challenging because resources are limited and linking individual illnesses to a particular food is rarely possible except during an outbreak. The CDC has developed a method of attributing illnesses to food commodities that uses data from outbreaks associated with both simple and complex foods. Using data from outbreak-associated illnesses for 1998–2008, the CDC estimated annual US foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths attributable to each of 17 food commodities.
The CDC attributed 46% of illnesses to produce and found that more deaths were attributed to poultry than to any other commodity. To the extent that these estimates reflect the commodities causing all foodborne illness, they indicate that efforts are particularly needed to prevent contamination of produce and poultry. Methods to incorporate data from other sources are needed to improve attribution estimates for some commodities and agents.
Despite advances in food safety, foodborne illness remains common in the United States
More than nine million persons each year have a foodborne illness caused by a major pathogen, according to the study, “Foodborne illness acquired in the United States—major pathogens.” One challenge in preventing foodborne illness is determining how to prioritize limited food safety resources across a large number of foods, according to the study, “Attributing illness to food.”
Furthermore, attributing all illnesses to specific foods is challenging because most agents are transmitted through a variety of foods, and linking an illness to a particular food is rarely possible except during an outbreak. To help determine priorities for food safety efforts, in the CDC’s latest research, the CDC organized the large number of foods implicated in outbreaks in the United States into 17 mutually exclusive food commodities. The study provides estimates of the number of domestically acquired foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths attributable to these commodities.
The CDC’s latest “outbreak-based method” of research attributed most foodborne illnesses to food commodities that constitute a major portion of the US diet.
When food commodities are consumed frequently, even those with a low risk for pathogen transmission per serving may result in a high number of illnesses. The attribution of foodborne-associated illnesses and deaths to specific commodities is useful for prioritizing public health activities; however, additional data on the specific food consumed is needed to assess per-serving risk.
The risk for foodborne illness is just one part of the risk–benefit equation for foods; other factors, such as the health benefits of consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables, must also be considered. That’s the main issue for consumers. To keep the arteries open, many physicians advise people to eat their green leafy vegetables.
Nutritionists emphasize the role that vegetables play in diets and health. But what happens when the highest number of people falling sick with foodborne illness catch their bacteria and viral infections from contaminated green leafy vegetables, packaged cut and cleaned salad fixings, nuts, and other types of produce and various fruits from mangos to cantaloupe — depending upon what is contaminated at a particular time of each year? The CDC’s latest study was made possible through the efforts of state and local health department officials who investigated and reported most foodborne outbreaks.
Leading causes of hospitalization from foodborne illnesses were salmonella and norovirus
In the latest studies, leading causes of hospitalization from foodborne illness were nontyphoidal Salmonella spp. (35%), norovirus (26%), Campylobacter spp. (15%), and Toxoplasma gondii (8%). Leading causes of death were nontyphoidal Salmonella spp. (28%), T. gondii (24%), Listeria monocytogenes (19%), and norovirus (11%). These estimates cannot be compared with prior (1999) estimates to assess trends because different methods were used. Additional data and more refined methods can improve future estimates.
Food poisoning can hit hard at older adults and young children, sometimes leading to kidney failure. Be careful what you eat. Then again, you never know how your food become contaminated between the time the produce or poultry was on the farm and the last person handling it before it became packaged (or left unpackaged) on an open cool counter shelf and exposed to every cough, sneeze, or handling by the public. But is sickness from vegetables and poultry always going to be inevitable? Or will one day a non-chemical method be used that’s safe and that gets rid of contamination from microbes that make you sick?
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