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Salmonella 'Still a Challenge'

The report confirms that 2010 target levels for salmonella, listeria, and campylobacter have not been met, and Goldman singled out salmonella as a particular concern.

Raw and undercooked poultry and eggs are major sources of salmonella illness.

FSIS inspectors reported a decline in processed poultry contaminated with salmonella in 2009, compared to 2006, and an increase in processing plants that met the agency's standards for preventing contamination, according to the report.

But Braden says these improvements have not translated into hoped for declines in salmonella illness.

"Salmonella continues to be a challenge," he says. "Salmonella is the most commonly diagnosed and reported food-borne illness. The incidence of salmonella infections has declined by 10% since surveillance began in 1996, but it is furthest of any of the pathogens from the goals we have set for reductions."

Oyster-Related Illness Increasing

Other highlights of the annual FoodNet report include:

  • Food safety officials could not explain why illnesses related to vibrio bacteria have increased by 85% since reporting begin. Raw and uncooked oysters are the most common cause of vibrio illness.
  • Other than E. coli, the only significant decline in recent years has been in shigella infections. Some shigella is transmitted by food, but most infections come from person-to-person contact. Child day-care centers are common sources of infection.
  • For most infections, the illness rate was highest among children under the age of 4, but people over 50 had the highest rates of hospitalization and death.

Goldman says food preparers can have a big impact on food-borne illness by following the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food safety advice to cook, separate, clean, and chill.

This means:

  • Cook all foods to a safe internal temperature to destroy bacteria.
  • Separate cooked and uncooked foods, as well as those eaten raw and those cooked before eating.
  • Clean your hands and work surfaces frequently while cooking.
  • Chill foods that need refrigeration and never let these foods sit at room temperature for more than one or two hours.

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