Thursday, December 12, 2013
By DINA ELBOGHDADY Washington Post
Little progress has been made in fighting many types of food-borne illnesses in recent years, according to new federal data, an outcome that food-safety advocates say underscores the need to put into place the landmark food-safety bill signed by President Obama more than a year ago.
Another Hannaford recall: Burch Farms cantaloupes
Hannaford Supermarkets on Saturday issued a recall of cantaloupes, from a farm in North Carolina, that could be contaminated with listeria.
Any cantaloupes with stickers that read Burch Farms and have a PLU number of 4319 can be returned for a refund. Any remaining fruit that was in stores as of Saturday had been removed, according to a news release from the supermarket chain.
There are no reports of illnesses from the melons, but listeria has the potential to cause serious illness.
It's the second recall from Hannaford in less than a week. Last Monday, the company recalled nearly 30,000 pounds of Cargill ground beef that were believed to have been tainted with salmonella.
Hannaford encouraged customers to check for any ground beef with use-by or sell-by dates between May 29 and June 16 and return the meat for a refund.
Scarborough-based Hannaford Supermarkets operates 181 stores and employs more than 26,000 associates in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
– From staff reports
The most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the rates of infections linked to four out of five key pathogens it tracks -- salmonella, vibrio, campylobacter and listeria -- remained relatively steady or increased from 2007 through 2011. The exception is a strain of E. coli, which has been tied to fewer illnesses in the same period.
The results frustrated consumer advocates, who along with industry groups pushed for passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which empowers the Food and Drug Administration to prevent food-borne illnesses instead of simply reacting to them. Obama signed the legislation in January 2011 after a string of food-borne outbreaks shook consumer confidence in the U.S. food supply.
But the administration has not met the deadlines for releasing draft rules needed to implement key provisions of the law, including one that would mandate that food imported into this country meet the same safety standards as food produced domestically.
"Everyone was hoping that this new food safety law would be in place and we'd start seeing improvements by now," said Erik Olson, a director at the Pew Health Group. "What these CDC numbers show is that unless new protections are put into place, millions of Americans are going to continue to get sick from contaminated food."
Unlike last year, the CDC data were released without reaching out to key stakeholders who typically are notified in advance. Instead, the charts and graphs were quietly posted online Friday.
"Last year they gave these numbers some prominence," said Chris Waldrop, a director at the Consumer Federation of America. "It's very curious that they would quietly publish them on their website. ... These numbers are a way to hold government accountable in reducing food-borne illnesses."
The data are based on infections diagnosed by 10 state laboratories. The geographical region covered includes about 47 million people or 15 percent of the U.S. population, the CDC said.
The CDC found that the most frequent cause of infection in 2011 was salmonella, followed by campylobacter. The data also showed that progress has been made since the late 1990s in lowering illnesses linked to most of the nine pathogens that CDC tracks. For instance, infections tied to shigella were down 65 percent in 2011 compared with the average annual incidence for 1996 through 1998. Those tied to E. coli O157:H7 were down 42 percent.
The trend for those two pathogens continued when comparing last year's data to the period of 2006 through 2011, with shigella infections down 43 percent and deadly E. coli down 25 percent.