Your Health

Salmonella And Norovirus Top Rogues Gallery Of Food Hazards

A chicken pot pie oozes its contents onto a plate.

hide captionOne of the biggest multistate outbreaks of salmonella in 2007 involved frozen pot pies.

iStockphoto.com

Unfortunately, we find ourselves writing all too often about the latest food recall or outbreak of illness caused by something we assumed was good for us.

With all these scattershot reports, what should you really be concerned about? Well, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has crunched the reports on foodborne illnesses from 2007, the most recent year with finalized data, and we have a rundown of the bugs and foods to watch out for.

But first a little good news, there were 8 percent fewer outbreaks of illness from contaminated food in 2007 (1,097) than the annual average in the preceeding five years (1,193).

Bacteria caused most of the problems where a single source of trouble could be identified: 52 percent of the outbreaks (clusters of illness) and 50 percent of the illnesses (number of people sickened). Viruses came in second, with 40 percent of the outbreaks and 48 percent of the illnesses. After that there were the chemicals, 7 percent of outbreaks and 1 percent of illnesses. And parasites brought up the rear, accounting for 1 percent of outbreaks.

Which bugs were worst? The stomach flu, or norovirus, caused the most trouble —  39 percent of the single-source outbreaks reported. Salmonella was next at 27 percent.

But unless you're some whiz-bang microbiologist culturing your food before eating, you're probably more interested in what types of food were involved the most. The CDC has got that info, too. In 2007, the leading source of outbreaks that could be traced a single, specific cause were:

  • Poultry (17 percent)
  • Beef (16 percent)
  • Leafy vegetables (14 percent)

Some of the particularly bad outbreaks in 2007, in case you've forgotten, involved salmonella in frozen pot pies that sickened more than 400 people and killed three, and some hummus, also tainted with salmonella, that made more than 800 people sick.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: