Federal regulators recently announced improved practices for identifying sources of foodborne illness.
The Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration—a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service—used data from nearly 1,000 outbreaks between 1998 and 2012 to analyze foods most responsible for causing sickness.
Regulators focused on Salmonella, E. coli O157, Listeria, and Campylobacte, four bacteria estimated to cause 1.9 million cases of foodborne illness annually in the U.S.
A wide variety of products, for example, caused Salmonella illnesses, while more than 80 percent of the E. coli illnesses stemmed from beef and from vegetable row crops such as leafy vegetables.
Dairy-related outbreaks from raw milk or cheese caused a majority of Campylobacter illnesses, while a 2011 Listeria outbreak due to cantaloupes bumped up the percentage of those illnesses stemming from fruits to 50 percent.
Although the agencies urged caution in interpreting the results--particularly for Campylobacter and Listeria—they expected the data to bolster preventative measures, alter agency priorities and support the development of new regulations and performance standards.