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.