Food makes one in six ill each year


The latest study on foodborne disease in the U.S. has found that one in six people get sick each year from something they ate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a new report that 48 million Americans become ill annually due to foodborne illnesses. A relatively small number, 128,000, end up in hospital. However, foodborne illnesses are responsible for 3,000 deaths each year.

The CDC report found salmonella is the leading cause of hospitalizations (28%) and deaths (35%). It also found that nine of 10 foodborne illnesses are due to just seven pathogens: salmonella, norovirus, campylobacter, toxoplasma, e.coli O157, listeria and clostridium perfringens.

Nearly 60% of illnesses are caused by norovirus, but the agency said that norovirus tends to result in less serious illnesseses.

“We’ve made progress in better understanding the burden of foodborne illness and, unfortunately, far too many people continue to get sick from the food they eat,” CDC director Thomas Frieden said in a statement.

This is the CDC's first attempt since 1999 to calculate the number of people who get sick from food annually.

The most recent numbers show a drop in foodborne illnesses compared to the 1999 report. However, the decline is largely the result of improvements in data tracking and new methods of estimating foodborne disease.

For example, it’s now known that most norovirus is not spread through food, which reduced the estimates of foodborne norovirus to 5.5 million cases per year from 9.2 million a decade ago.

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