The stories of multi-state food safety outbreaks, the overwhelming number of food recalls for both human and pet food, and the number of victims of foodborne illness, ran rampant in 2018.
It was, in fact sickening!
The recalls that involve food pathogens are the most serious to the health of consumers. These outbreaks lead to illness, death, and lifelong disease in many cases.
There are also food recalls for foreign objects, such as metal or glass contaminants, undeclared allergens present in a food, and mislabeling of the food or ingredients contained in a food product.
If you or someone in your family was sickened by the food they ate, you know the prevalence of contamination is very bad news.
The reality is that all the statistics are very bad news. They are impacting consumers’ ability to decide what food is safe and even costing them money when good food is tossed out of fear of contamination.
Food waste is a growing concern for our environment too.
The most recent statistics concerning food recalls and their impact on all of us:
- Annually the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 48 million people are sickened by foodborne pathogens; 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die!
- Food poisoning affects one in six Americans each year.
- There are more than 250 identified foodborne diseases.
- The majority of the 21 interstate or multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks in 2018 were caused by Salmonella, per the CDC. However, E. coli, Listeria, Cyclospora, and Vibrio were also prominent.
- The US food supply is global, with an estimated 95% of seafood, 50% of fresh fruit, and 25% of vegetables being imported.
- The overall cost of foodborne illness, as estimated by researchers at Ohio State University, was more than $55 billion. A recent World Bank study found that the cost of lost productivity and medical expenses related to unsafe food was $110 billion globally in low- and middle-income economies.
- In 2012, the Grocery Manufacturers Association found the average cost for a food recall was $10 million, which correlates to the direct amount the manufacturer pays to retrieve and dispose of the recalled product, not the cost of lawsuits and loss of sales which drives that number much higher.
- After a food recall, billions of dollars’ worth of food product is wasted. Four million pounds of food was recalled in just one McCain Foods recall due to contaminated onions and as much as 12 million pounds of raw meat was recalled this year. Imagine how much romaine lettuce was thrown away just this year!
These were the foods connected to the top multi-state outbreaks in 2018:
- Ground beef
- Raw turkey
- Deli ham
- Del Monte Fresh Vegetable-Dip trays
- McDonald’s Fresh Express salad mix
- Raw milk
- Romaine lettuce
- Dog and cat food
- Kellogg’s Honey Smacks Cereal
- Crab meat
- Shredded coconut
- Fresh raw sprouts at Jimmy John’s
- Kratom products
- Pre-cut melons
- Hy-Vee Spring Pasta Salad
- Duncan Hines cake mix
Does it seem as though there are more foods affected by contamination or are the manufacturers and government agencies getting better at identifying and reporting it?
Maybe a little of both, but there are many positive steps that can improve the fight for food safety according to Detective Foodsafe®.
Foodborne illness can be prevented – that is good news!
Effective hand washing can prevent illness such as cold and flus but also foodborne illness.
To be effective, Detective Foodsafe says we should wash our hands before, during, and after preparing food, before eating at home or in a restaurant, after handling eggs and poultry, whenever we empty the trash, after coughing or sneezing, after using the bathroom, and whenever they become soiled.
Use warm water and soap applying friction for at least 20 seconds. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Rinse with water and dry.
Food Safety Modernization Act
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will allow the FDA (Food And Drug Administration) to oversee importers to be sure they are meeting US standards of production.
Technology of Detection
Scientists say that their ability to detect pathogens through technological advances has improved greatly since 2009. For instance, whole genome sequencing combined with a database of pathogens called PulseNet allows officials to connect illness with the DNA of specific strains of pathogens.
These advances mean that outbreaks are found earlier and link food to people who are sickened.
Surveillance has improved with state public health labs linked to the CDC. Experts feel this is another reason the public is hearing more about food safety reports and faster action is being taken.
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that, in 2018, the flow of agricultural products from other countries was kept free from disease and pests through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Biosecurity practices such as trained inspection dogs, vigilant screening of passengers, and import restrictions helped keep our food chain safer.
The Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) was able to inspect more than 160 million head of livestock and about 10 million poultry carcasses as well as conducting 6.9 million inspections of meat, poultry and egg products to ensure they were wholesome.
Detective Foodsafe welcomes technology, surveillance, and regular inspections that can help keep the food supply free from pathogens that can harm us.
Prevention, especially when it comes to our food supply, is worth at least a pound of cure!