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U.S. Meets National Health Objective for E. coli O157:H7 Infections, Centers for Disease Control Concludes

Thursday, April 15, 2010

American Meat Institute Says Bacteria on Meat and Poultry Products Also Have Trended Down Substantially Since HACCP Was Fully Implemented in 2000

The U.S. meat and poultry industry today said that a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcement that the U.S. has achieved its public health goal for E. coli H157: H7 is a testament to the power of industry and government efforts to improve food safety.

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.  Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations, which the Institute asked USDA to mandate, were fully implemented in 2000 and triggered significant food safety progress.

“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.   For a decade, AMI’s members have treated food safety as a non-competitive issue and have had a comprehensive food safety research program in place to identify new strategies to reduce and ultimately eliminate key foodborne pathogens.

 CDC called an increase in Listeria monocytogenes illness from 0.29 cases per 100,000 people in 2008 to 0.34 cases per 100,000 people in 2009 “concerning,” but noted that the incidence of Listeria infections continues to be substantially lower than at the start of the FoodNet surveillance program.  

“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,” said Hodges. He added that there likely are 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.  As pleased as we are with this progress, we realize the battle is not over.  We are committed to making even further improvements.” 

CDC’s data is collected through the FoodNet surveillance program and represents the number of illnesses caused by foodborne pathogens.  The numbers, which represent illnesses caused by all foods, appeared in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports.  http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5914a2.htm



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