New Report Lists Top Ten Pathogen-Food Combinations Burdening Public Health

Salmonella typhimurium
A report released April 28 offers a tool to help early detection of contaminated foods before they reach consumers, New Public Health reported last week.

The University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute published the report, called Ranking the Risks: The Ten Pathogen-Food Combinations with the Greatest Burden on Public Health, amidst a flurry of proposed budget cuts for federal food agencies and ongoing food-safety concerns.

The report offers food regulators a better way to target resources toward the most concerning food-pathogen combinations:
  • The top-ranked pathogen-food combination is poultry contaminated with Campylobacter, a combination that sickens more than 600,000 people in the U.S., at a cost of $1.3 billion per year. Recommendation: The report questions whether new safety standards for chickens and turkeys are tough enough and recommends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) tighten these standards over time.
  • Salmonella is the leading pathogen overall, causing more than $3 billion in disease-related costs annually. In addition to poultry, Salmonella-contaminated produce, eggs and other affected foods all rank in the Top 10. Recommendation: The researchers suggest that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA develop a joint initiative on Salmonella.
  • Four combinations in the Top 10—Listeria in luncheon meats and dairy products and Toxoplasma in pork and beef pose serious risks to pregnant women. Infection with these pathogens can cause illness in the mother and developing fetus or newborn. Recommendation: Federal agencies should strengthen prevention programs aimed at these pathogens and improve educational efforts for pregnant women.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.