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NewsBites July 2011 Issue

Food-Borne Illnesses Cost Billions

Pathogens in meat and poultry cost the US economy more than any other sources of food-borne illnesses, according to a new study, and the top 10 most damaging pathogens take an annual toll of $8.1 billion. “We tend to think of food-borne disease as 24 hours of diarrhea and it’s over,” said J. Glenn Martin, MD, MPH, director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida. But Dr. Martin and colleagues totaled up the more far-reaching costs of food pathogens, such as lost wages and medical bills. Topping the list of single sources of contamination was campylobacter in poultry, at $1.3 billion and 600,000 victims a year; the USDA only recently set standards to crack down on campylobacter, which take effect this month. Second was toxoplasma in pork, which is primarily a danger to pregnant women, but can have devastating, long-term effects on the fetus. Listeria in deli meats ranked third in economic damage; for more than a decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that older people avoid deli meats unless they are reheated to 165 degrees (“steaming hot”). Salmonella causes the most disease and economic damage overall, the study found, but its effects are spread across a wide range of foods, including poultry, eggs and produce.


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