Multistate Foodborne Outbreaks

by Luis G. de Jesus, MD

Why are there so many food recalls due to foodborne outbreaks in the news lately? Is this becoming a norm of living in the US?

According to the latest CDC and the MMWR report Incidence and Trends with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly through Food, 2006-2017, foodborne illness continues to be a substantial health burden despite ongoing food safety measures in the United States.

CDC estimates that 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness each year. Some foodborne diseases are severe enough leading to 128,000 hospitalization and 3,000 deaths annually.

In just the first half of the year, 2018, the CDC reported the following multistate foodborne outbreaks:

Multistate outbreak of Salmonellosis:

* Live poultry, Raw turkey product, Hy-Vee Spring Pasta Salad, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal, Pre-cut melon, Rose Acre Farms shell eggs, Dried coconut, Kratom, Chicken salad, Raw sprouts, Frozen shredded coconut

Multistate outbreak of Cyclosporiasis:

* Fast-food chain salads, Del Monte fresh produce vegetable trays,

Multistate outbreak of E. coliO157:H7:

* Romaine lettuce, Leafy greens

More than 250 different kinds of foodborne diseases have been identified. Most are due to infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. It can also be caused by harmful toxins and chemicals produced by the organisms that contaminate foods.

Foods of animal origin specifically raw or undercooked meat and poultry, raw or lightly cooked eggs, unpasteurized (raw) milk, and raw shellfish are the most likely to be contaminated. Fruits and vegetables may also get contaminated.

Food contamination may occur in the field and during food processing or distribution. Food handlers in restaurants, cafeterias, or groceries, may also contaminate food. In kitchens, cross-contamination may occur particularly in handling raw meat and poultry.

Common symptoms of foodborne diseases are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. However, symptoms may differ among the different types of foodborne diseases. Most people recover from the illness. However, some with severe symptoms may need emergency room visit or hospitalization.

Certain people are more likely to get sick from foodborne diseases. Those groups include pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems from diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, organ transplants, HIV/AIDS, or from receiving immunosuppressive medications, chemotherapy or radiation treatment.