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U.S. health officials make progress against salmonella

Staff Writer |
A new government report that lists the top offenders for food poisoning shows that U.S. health officials have made progress against salmonella infections.

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In 2016, there was an 18 percent drop in illnesses caused by this common type of bacteria, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tougher regulations and more vaccinations of chickens most likely explain the decrease, the researchers said.

"We are making progress in detecting and responding more quickly to foodborne illness, but our priority remains preventing illnesses from happening in the first place," said Susan Mayne. She directs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

"The final rules we are implementing under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act focus on prevention, and we will continue to work closely with other government agencies at the local, state and federal levels," Mayne added in a CDC news release.

Foodborne illness continues to be a significant public health problem in the United States, the researchers said. Previous studies have suggested that the number of infections far exceeds the number of diagnoses.

Dr. Robert Tauxe, director of CDC's Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, said, "This report provides important information about which foodborne germs are making people sick in the United States."

And, Tauxe added, the report "also points out changes in the ways clinicians are testing for foodborne illness and gaps in information as a result."

As it stands, most of the reported bacterial foodborne illnesses in the United States in 2016 were still caused by campylobacter bacteria and salmonella, the report showed.

In total, FoodNet sites reported just over 24,000 foodborne infections, more than 5,500 hospitalizations, and close to 100 deaths.

The numbers of reported foodborne illnesses caused by specific germs were: campylobacter (8,547); salmonella (8,172); shigella (2,913); shiga toxin-producing E. coli (1,845); cryptosporidium (1,816); yersinia (302); vibrio (252); listeria (127); and cyclospora (55).

While salmonella infections decreased, reported yersinia, cryptosporidium and shiga toxin-producing E.coli infections increased, the findings showed.

That was likely due to new rapid tests that make these infections easier to diagnose, rather than an actual increase in illnesses caused by these germs, the researchers noted.

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