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Publisher’s Platform: Please, put me out of business

Opinion

Bill Marler testified before Congress in support of the Food Safety Modernization Act, asking the government and the food industry to put him out of business.

Bill Marler testified before Congress in support of the Food Safety Modernization Act, asking the government and the food industry to put him out of business.

From about 2011 though the summer of 2015 business was slower for The Food Safety Law Firm, which meant on average less people were sickened by the food they ate. For some time I thought the food industry was actually “Putting me out of Business.”

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its FoodNet report this week with the stats on nine pathogens in 10 states for 2016 — comparing 2013-2015[1] — and the new numbers are not great. They confirm why we seem busier lately.

In 2016, FoodNet identified 24,029 infections, 5,512 hospitalizations, and 98 deaths in the United States caused by the nine pathogens.

The pathogens covered in the report are Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, Listeria, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia.

Compared with 2013-2015, the 2016 incidence of Campylobacter infection was significantly lower at 11 percent less when including only culture-confirmed infections. Incidence of STEC infection was significantly higher for confirmed infections, posting a 21 percent increase.Similarly, the incidence of Yersinia infection was significantly higher, with confirmed infections increasing 29 percent.

Incidence of confirmed Cryptosporidium infection was also significantly higher in 2016 compared with 2013–2015 with the CDC reporting a 45 percent increase.

Among 7,554 confirmed Salmonella cases in 2016, serotype information was available for 6,583, representing 87 percent of the cases. The most common serotypes were Enteritidis with 1,320 cases or 17 percent; Newport with 797 cases or 11 percent, and Typhimurium with 704 cases or 9 percent. The incidence in 2016 compared with 2013-2015 was significantly lower for Typhimurium (18% decrease; CI = 7%–21%) and unchanged for Enteritidis and Newport.Among 208, or 95 percent, of speciated Vibrio isolates, half, or 103,  were V. parahaemolyticus. There were 35, or 17 percent, that were V. alginolyticus, and 26, or 13 percent that were V. vulnificus.

Among 1,394 confirmed and serogrouped STEC cases, 36 percent, or 503 cases, were STEC O157. Another 64 percent, or 891 STEC cases, were non-O157. Among 70 percent, or 586 cases of non-O157 isolates, the most common serogroups were O26 with 190 cases, O103  with 178 cases, and O111 with 106 cases. Compared with 2013-2015, the incidence of STEC non-O157 infections in 2016 was significantly higher (26% increase; CI = 9%–46%) and the incidence of STEC O157 was unchanged.

open for business signWe are still seeing a significant downturn in E. coli cases linked to red meat, but are seeing cases in products like flour and soy nut butter, that leave all a bit perplexed.  We are also seeing less cases linked to leafy greens generally. Our growth areas seem to be imported food products and restaurant-related outbreaks.

The entire food chain, both foreign and domestic, as well as government, academia and consumers, clearly have more to do to drive me into retirement.

[1] FoodNet conducts active, population-based surveillance for laboratory-diagnosed infections caused by Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, Listeria, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia for 10 sites covering approximately 15% of the U.S. population.

Editor’s note: Bill Marler is publisher of Food Safety News and a founding member of the Seattle law firm MarlerClark LLP, PS.

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