CDC report shows drop in E. coli illnesses (Updated)

By Rita Jane Gabbett, Meatingplace  |  April 15, 2010

Government data released Thursday showed significant decreases in the reported incidence of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157 infections in 2009 compared to the preceding three years.

According to the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network ( FoodNet) — which combines data from the Centers for Disease Control, USDA and FDA — the Healthy People 2010 target of fewer than one case per 100,000 population for STEC O157 infection was met. The Healthy People 2010 targets were not met for: campylobacter, listeria or salmonella.

The incidence of STEC O157 infection in 2009 was similar to that in 2004, according to the report. Compared to 2006 through 2008, however, STEC O157 infection was down 25 percent. “The recent decrease in STEC O157 infection might reflect, in part, control efforts in ground beef processing and produce growing practices,” the report said.

“We are gratified that our ongoing and aggressive efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate E. coli O157:H7 in beef products may have contributed to the achievement of this important public health goal,” said AMI Executive Vice President James Hodges in a statement.

The report also noted that salmonella infections declined slightly in 2009. It cited USDA data showing that fewer cultures of raw broiler chicken samples yielded Salmonella in 2009 (7.2 percent) than in 2006 (11.4 percent).

In addition, the percentage of broiler chicken slaughter establishments meeting FSIS’s rigorous category 1 Salmonella contamination criteria increased to 82 percent in 2009 from 49 percent in 2006.

The report said a modest increase in the incidence of Listeria infection “is a concern,” but added, “however, the incidence of Listeria infection continues to be substantially lower than at the start of FoodNet surveillance in 1996.”

Hodges noted that the meat and poultry industry’s record in reducing Listeria monocytogenes is excellent and the fact there have been no recalls of meat or poultry products for nearly a decade due to a listerosis outbreak suggests that there may be other causes for the increase besides ready-to-eat meat and poultry products.

The report showed in 2009 a total of 17,468 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection from select enteric pathogens transmitted commonly through food. Among others, that total included:

    * 459 cases of STEC O157 (0.99 cases per 100,000)

    * 264 cases of STEC non-O157 (0.57 cases per 100,000)

    * 7,039 cases of salmonella (15.19 cases per 100,000)

    * 6,033 cases of campylobacter (13.02 per 100,000)

    * 158 cases of listeria (0.34 per 100,000)

    * 1,849 cases of shigella (3.99 per 100,000)

To view the report click here.

(Update adds comments by AMI’s James Hodges)