[permaculture] Determining the “High Risk Foods”: Another Analysis Sees Things Differently | Food Safety News

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Mon Apr 8 10:22:27 EDT 2013

Determining the “High Risk Foods”: Another Analysis Sees Things Differently
| Food Safety News

 Determining the “High Risk Foods”: Another Analysis Sees Things
Differently By Dr. David W. K.
Acheson<http://www.foodsafetynews.com/author/dacheson/>| April 8, 2013


The *numbers* say that the most outbreaks and illnesses are attributable to
produce, but, in reality, fruits and vegetables are really quite safe.

How can this be?

A new report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest
(CSPI)<http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/outbreak_alert_2013_final.pdf> takes
a look at the number of cases of foodborne illness relative to the amount
eaten. That is, when foodborne illnesses are considered together with
consumption rates, meats, poultry, and seafood are far more likely to cause
illness than produce.

Thus, although CSPI agrees with the basic numbers in CDC’s 2012 report
of Foodborne Illnesses, Hospitalizations, and Deaths to Food Commodities by
using Outbreak Data, United States,
which put the spotlight on produce as causing the most cases of foodborne
illness, it did not draw the same conclusions.

In the white paper, Outbreak Alert! 2001‐2010 A Review of Foodborne Illness
in America <http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/outbreak_alert_2013_final.pdf>,
published in March, CSPI analyzed 4,229 foodborne disease outbreaks
occurring between 2001 and 2010, as identified by CDC and other sources.
However, the difference between the CSPI and CDC report was that CSPI took
the numbers a step further. When analyzed “pound-for-pound” with the amount
of each type of food consumed by Americans, seafood rose to the top as the
most hazardous food, followed by poultry products – two products for which
HACCP is already required.

With this extended analysis, the CSPI report backs up the assertions we
made in our February 7 newsletter when the CDC report came out (From Farm
to Consumer: Where is the Real Risk for High-Risk Foods and How Does FSMA
Fit In?<http://leavittpartnersblog.com/2013/02/from-farm-to-consumer-where-is-the-real-risk-for-high-risk-foods-and-how-does-fsma-fit-in/>).
As we stated, and asked, then: “*With its statement that ‘more illnesses
were attributed to leafy vegetables (22%) than to any other commodity,’ the
CDC report puts the spotlight heavily on produce and its on-farm
production. … But does it really deserve that spotlight? “*

We don’t want to undermine any industry efforts in raising the level of
safety for produce–or any other foods. We just want to ensure that produce
is not getting undue blame or focus to the detriment of other foods that
need just as much – or more – of that focus.

The report also went another step further to analyze the locations most
often associated with outbreaks. Although occurrences in restaurants and
private homes impacted the fewest number of people per outbreak, the number
of outbreaks were the greatest in these two locations, and contributed to
the greatest number of illnesses. The number of illnesses associated with
restaurant outbreaks (32,919) were, in fact, almost three times greater
than that of any other single location–with private homes coming in second
(12,666).  Again, while we don’t want to take the food safety onus off the
food manufacturing industry, it is important that food safety be considered
at further steps of the chain where the food is handled and served, rather
than blindly placing blame on the manufacturer or farm, and thus putting
the majority of the “regulatory eggs” into those baskets.

It’s currently impossible to determine how many outbreaks are due to cross
contamination, poor employee hygiene, temperature abuse, etc., and these
considerations can have great bearing on the foods associated with
outbreaks. Taking produce as an example again: if lettuce is chopped on a
cutting board that wasn’t properly cleaned after raw chicken was on it, is
it fair to incriminate lettuce as the cause of salmonellosis? It’s these
kinds of issues that make what seems like straightforward data analysis not
so straightforward, and makes discerning the *truly* high risk foods very

A further interpretation of the CSPI data is that cross contamination in
food service or home environments or inadequate food preparation such as
cooking, is, in fact, the major contributor of foodborne illness in the
U.S. today.

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