— OPINION —
The Abbott infant formula recall could have been prevented. The FDA had reports of safety failures months before the contaminated formula sickened babies and caused two deaths.
I sent these T-shirts to the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, which is tasked to make recommendations as to what pathogens are reportable. I also sent this message: “I hope that these T-shirts will be a reminder of the awesome responsibility that this council has to protect the public.”
The head of the FDA said in testimony to congress months ago:
“The CDC receives reports on foodborne disease outbreaks from state, local, and territorial health departments. On average, CDC receives two to four Cronobacter case reports annually; however, because Cronobacter infection is not reportable in most states, the total number of cases that occur in the United States each year is not known.”
Here is a bit of history about why having bacterial infections reportable can make a difference.
In 1992, from mid-November to mid-January, 9 cases of E. coli O157:H7-associated bloody diarrhea and the hemolytic-uremic syndrome had been reported in San Diego County, California and 1 child died. A total of 34 persons had bloody diarrhea, the hemolytic-uremic syndrome, or E. coli O157:H7 organisms isolated from stool during the period November 15, 1992, through January 31, 1993. E. coli O157:H7 was ultimately identified from 6 persons were indistinguishable from those of the Washington outbreak strain linked to Jack in the Box restaurants in Washington, Idaho, Nevada and California. All the pre-formed frozen hamburgers were produced by Von’s in California and shipped to those restaurants in those states after the illness in California had already happened. According to public health officials:
Improved surveillance by mandating laboratory – and physician – based reporting of cases of E coli O157:H7 infection and the hemolytic uremic syndrome might have alerted health officials to this outbreak sooner, which could have resulted in earlier investigation and the institution of measures to prevent more cases.
Clearly, had E. coli O157:H7 been reportable, public health officials in California would have caught the illnesses and most likely prevented the hamburgers from being shipped to other states. Hundreds of people – specifically children – would not have been sickened and three would likely not have died.
Make Cronobacter sakazakii reportable and save lives.
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