From about 2011 though the Summer of 2015 business was slower for The Food Safety Law Firm, which meant on average less people were sickened by the food they ate.  For some time I thought the food industry was actually “Putting me out of Business.”  However, the CDC’s FoodNet published in MMWR today the foodborne illness numbers from 10 states and 9 pathogens for 2016 and the incidences compared to 2013-2015[1] and the new numbers are not great and confirm why we seem busier lately.

In 2016, FoodNet identified 24,029 infections, 5,512 hospitalizations, and 98 deaths caused by these pathogens.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.39.47 AMCompared with 2013–2015, the 2016 incidence of Campylobacter infection was significantly lower (11% decrease) when including only culture-confirmed infections. Incidence of STEC infection was significantly higher for confirmed infections (21% increase). Similarly, the incidence of Yersinia infection was significantly higher for confirmed (29% increase) infections. Incidence of confirmed Cryptosporidium infection was also significantly higher in 2016 compared with 2013–2015 (45% increase).

Among 7,554 confirmed Salmonella cases in 2016, serotype information was available for 6,583 (87%). The most common serotypes were Enteritidis (1,320; 17%), Newport (797; 11%), and Typhimurium (704; 9%). The incidence in 2016 compared with 2013–2015 was significantly lower for Typhimurium (18% decrease; CI = 7%–21%) and unchanged for Enteritidis and Newport.

Among 208 (95%) speciated Vibrio isolates, 103 (50%) were V. parahaemolyticus, 35 (17%) were V. alginolyticus, and 26 (13%) were V. vulnificus.

Among 1,394 confirmed and serogrouped STEC cases, 503 (36%) were STEC O157 and 891 (64%) were STEC non-O157. Among 586 (70%) STEC non-O157 isolates, the most common serogroups were O26 (190; 21%), O103 (178; 20%), and O111 (106; 12%). Compared with 2013–2015, the incidence of STEC non-O157 infections in 2016 was significantly higher (26% increase; CI = 9%–46%) and the incidence of STEC O157 was unchanged.

We are still seeing a significant downturn in E. coli cases linked to red meat, but are seeing cases in products like flour and soy nut butter, that leave all a bit perplexed.  We are also seeing less cases linked to leafy greens generally.  Our growth areas seem to be imported food products and restaurant-related outbreaks.

The entire food chain, both foreign and domestic, as well as government, academia and consumers, clearly have more to do to drive me into retirement.


[1] FoodNet conducts active, population-based surveillance for laboratory-diagnosed infections caused by Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, Listeria, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia for 10 sites covering approximately 15% of the U.S. population.