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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Thanks to the CDC – and, a Question

I do not thank enough the good folks at state health departments for counting, and the CDC for compiling, all the outbreak data that I often steal whole cloth for my blog.  Thanks.

So, when the CDC quietly announced that a few recent outbreaks were officially over, I thought I would give them a “shout out,” or whatever the corollary is here in London.

Salmonella Tahini – A total of 16 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Montevideo or Salmonella Mbandaka were reported from nine states.

The number of ill persons identified in each state was as follows: California (1), Georgia (1), Iowa (1), Louisiana (1), Minnesota (2), New York (1), North Dakota (1), Texas (7), and Wisconsin (1). One ill person was hospitalized and died.

Collaborative investigation efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicated that tahini sesame paste distributed by Krinos Foods, LLC of Long Island City, New York was the source of this outbreak.

Salmonella Cucumbers – A total of 84 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Saintpaul were reported from 18 states. 28% of ill persons were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported.

Collaborative investigative efforts of local, state, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicated that imported cucumbers supplied by Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse of Culiacán, Mexico were the source of this outbreak.

Now for the question – When an outbreak is “over” does the CDC or state health departments that have done the counting and compiling, tell the counted that they were part of a recognized outbreak?  Perhaps, yes?  Perhaps, no?

Certainly, those of the counted who were sickened at the end of the outbreak – as it is being announced – likely know.  However, what about an outbreak that has a long Epi curve – an outbreak like the Wright County Salmonella egg outbreak that limped along for nearly a year before it is recognized?

From May 1 to November 30, 2010, a total of 3,578 illnesses were reported. However, some cases from this period may not have been reported yet, and some of these cases may not be related to this outbreak. Based on the previous 5 years of reports to PulseNet, we would expect approximately 1,639 total illnesses to occur during this same period. This means there are approximately 1,939 reported illnesses that are likely to be associated with this outbreak.

It has been my experience that many of the people who are in fact counted as part of an outbreak never know that they are – they are never told.  True, they likely know that they had Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, etc., but are not told of the vector that got them that way.

OK, I can hear it now – “Marler, you want to know so you can sue the poor, grower, manufacturer, importer, shipper, retailer!”  Well, true enough, but shouldn’t the counted know what caused their illness, or the death of a family member?  Perhaps even in knowing they do not hire me or another want to be food poison ambulance chasers?  Perhaps knowing causes simply causes people to change behaviors and stop buying that particular product or brand of product?  And, perhaps that provides the incentive for better food safety decisions?

Isn’t that how the free market is supposed to work anyway?

Bill, reporting from London – arguably, the birthplace of capitalism.