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Fish, chicken and dairy — mostly raw milk — top outbreak list

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta is out with its annual report on foodborne disease outbreaks, showing 864 outbreaks involving 13,246 people, 712 hospitalizations and 21 deaths in 2014.

CDC also reported the outbreaks led to 21 recalls of food products in 2014.

Among the report’s other findings:

Single food categories associated with the most outbreak illnesses:

  • Seeded vegetables, such as cucumbers or tomatoes — 428 illnesses;
  • Chicken — 354 illnesses; and
  • Dairy — 267 illnesses.

Single food categories associated with the most outbreaks:

  • Fish — 43 outbreaks;
  • fishchickendairy_406x250Chicken — 23 outbreaks; and
  • Dairy — 19 outbreaks, with 15 linked to unpasteurized, dairy products including raw milk.

There were 25 multi-state outbreaks, with specific types of foods determined in 16 outbreaks:

  • Ground beef — five outbreaks;
  • Fruits — five outbreaks;
  • Seeded vegetables — three outbreaks; and
  • Row crops, such as lettuce and cabbage — three outbreaks.

Most common locations
Restaurants accounted for 485 outbreaks, or 65 percent, of outbreaks reporting a single location of preparation. Specifically, 394 restaurants with sit-down dining, were the most commonly reported locations of food preparation.

According to the CDC report, foodborne diseases caused by known pathogens are estimated to result in about 9.4 million illnesses each year in the United States. Not all that many of the illnesses occur in the setting of a recognized outbreak. However, data collected during outbreak investigations provide insights into the pathogens and foods that cause illness.

Public health officials, regulatory agencies and the food industry use data to create control strategies along the farm-to-table continuum that target specific pathogens and foods.

As defined by CDC, an outbreak of foodborne disease is the occurrence of two or more cases of a similar illness resulting from ingestion of a common food. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories voluntarily submit reports of outbreaks investigated by their agencies using a Web-based reporting platform, the National Outbreak Reporting System (NORS)

NORS also collects reports of enteric disease outbreaks caused by other transmission modes, including water, animal contact, person-to-person contact, environmental contamination and unknown modes of transmission.

More about the multi-state outbreaks
Of  the 864 outbreaks in 2014, only 25, or 3 percent, were multi-state outbreaks. The multi-state outbreaks resulted in 778 illnesses, or 6 percent, of all outbreak illnesses. Of multi-state victims, 194 of them, or 28 percent, required hospitalization. Multi-state outbreaks caused 11 deaths, which was 52 percent of all foodborne illness outbreak deaths.

Outbreaks involved a median of five states with a range of  2–29. Eleven outbreaks were caused by Salmonella. The serotypes of Salmonella identified were Baildon, Braenderup, Enteritidis, Javiana, Minnesota, Newport, Paratyphi B variant L(+) tartrate(+), Saintpaul, Stanley, Typhimurium, and multiple serotypes for one outbreak each. Ten multistate outbreaks were caused by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. The E. coli serogroups identified were O157 for six outbreaks, and O103, O111, O121 and O145 each with one outbreak. Three outbreaks were caused by Listeria and one by norovirus.

The foods implicated in Salmonella outbreaks were almond and peanut butter, cantaloupe (suspected), cashews (suspected), chia seed powder, cucumber, grapes (suspected), ground beef (suspected), mango (suspected), mini cucumbers (suspected), mini peppers (suspected), and mung bean sprouts.

For E. coli, implicated foods included ground beef in four outbreaks with one confirmed and three suspected.  Serogroups O157 and O145 were identified in three and one of those outbreaks, respectively. Other E. coli implicated foods were cabbage with serogroup O111, clover sprouts  with O121, leaf lettuce with O157, pre-packaged salad with O157, spinach (suspected) with O157, and an undetermined food from a Mexican- style chain restaurant with O103.

Foods implicated in the Listeria multistate outbreaks were apples, stone fruit and mung bean sprouts with one outbreak each. Raw oysters were implicated in the norovirus outbreak.

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