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By: Katie Burns  Date: 12/15/10  

 If you have an interest in food safety, you’ve likely heard the statistic that 76 million people in the US, approximately one in four people, get sick each year from foodborne disease; however, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number is now closer to 48 million people in the US, or one in six individuals.  Before you jump to conclusions about why the numbers have such a wide variance, the CDC assures that the 2011 numbers are more accurate that the 1999 numbers due to investments in better data sources and improved methods and urges that the public does not compare the two numbers.  

Foodborne Illness by the Numbers
The 2011 report continues that of the estimated 48 million people in the U.S. who get sick from foodborne disease, 128,000 of them are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne disease.  The CDC explored the top five pathogens that caused foodborne illness. 

• Norovirus caused an estimated 5.4 million cases of foodborne illness;
• Salmonella, nontyphoidal had an estimated one million cases to its credit;
• Clostridium perfringens and Campylobacter spp. were credited with approximately 965,000 and 850,000 respectively, and
• Staphylococcus aureus rounded out the top five causing an estimated 240,000 cases of illnesses. 
     o (For more information on these particular pathogens, visit the CDC Disease Listing on Foodborne Illness.)  

What I find particularly of interest is that the majority of illnesses (an estimated 38.4 million cases) are caused by “unspecified agents.”  The CDC states that there is a need for more research to identify these “unspecified agents.”

What does this mean for you and me?
• Well, for starters we need to continue to be vigilant in our food safety behaviors:Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill
       o There is a long and strong food-supply chain that is working to ensure food safety, but ultimately we are the final line of     defense when it comes to ensuring our food is safe. 
       o The time it takes to prepare and store food properly is nothing compared to the symptoms of foodborne illness! 

• Along with cleaning, separating, cooking and chilling, the CDC also asks that we Report—contact your local public health department if you suspect foodborne illness. 

What do you do to avoid being a CDC foodborne disease statistic?

Other Resources Related to Food Safety:
The Partnership for Food Safety Education
Be Food Safe with Win—video
A Consumer's Guide to Food Safety Risks




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