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U.S. Achieves National Health Objective for E. coli O157:H7 Infections, CDC Says

Thursday, April 15, 2010

(American Meat Institute)

The U.S. has achieved its Healthy People 2010 objective for Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The CDC’s data is collected through the FoodNet surveillance program and represents the number of illnesses caused by the foodborne pathogen.  The numbers, which represent all illnesses caused by foods, appeared in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports.  http:///.

 The incidence of E. coli O157:H7 infections in Americans dropped from 1.12 cases per 100,000 people in 2008 to .99 cases per 100,000 people in 2009.  This represents an overall 51 percent reduction since 2000.  The U.S. public health goal was one case per 100,000 people and was set a decade ago.  During this same time period, the number of U.S.D.A. ground beef samples that tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 has declined by 63 percent to less than one third of one percent.

 Listeria monocytogenes, on the other hand, increased from 0.29 cases per 100,000 people in 2008 to 0.34 cases per 100,000 people in 2009.  The CDC called this increase “concerning;” but stated the incidence of Listeria infections continues to be substantially lower than at the start of the FoodNet surveillance program. “The increase in incidence of Listeria infections observed between 2008 and 2009 occurred primarily among persons aged 50 years or older; the incidence in other age groups has not changed substantially,” the agency wrote. 

 It is noteworthy that since 2000, the Listeria incidence rate in ready-to-eat meat and poultry products has dropped 69 percent to less than one half of one percent.  It is also noteworthy that there have been no recalls of ready-to-eat meat or poultry products triggered by a listeriosis outbreak since 2002. 

The CDC also reported that Salmonella infections dropped from 16.2 cases per 100,000 people in 2008 to 15.19 per 100,000 people in 2009.“We are gratified that our ongoing and aggressive efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate E. coli O157:H7 in beef products may have contributed to the achievement of this important public health goal,” said AMI Executive Vice President James. H. Hodges.   Hodges noted that the meat and poultry industry’s record in reducing Listeria monocytogenes is excellent and the fact there have been no recalls of meat or poultry products for nearly a decade due to a listerosis outbreak suggests that there are may be other causes for the  increase besides ready-to-eat meat and poultry products.

“We are eager to see improved food attribution data that will definitively link foods to illnesses,” Hodges said.  “When we can better understand the foods that are directly linked to illnesses, we can better target our public health strategies to make our safe food supply even safer.” 




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