Seafood: Cause in Many Food Poisoning Cases

W A S H I N G T O N, Aug. 7, 2000 -- Seafood is the biggest cause of foodpoisoning in the United States, having caused 237 outbreakssince 1990, a consumer group said today.

Eggs come in second, having caused 170 outbreaks, mostly ofsalmonella, said the Center for Science in the Public Interest, whichresearches health and other issues.

“Contaminated seafood and eggs harbor a host of hazards forthe unsuspecting consumer,” Caroline Smith DeWaal, director forfood safety for the nonprofit CSPI, said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, the government has done far too little toclean up those foods. Federal food-safety agencies shouldimmediately begin laboratory testing for dangerous bacteria inseafood and eggs,” she added.

“In addition, government inspectors should monitorconditions in processing plants much more rigorously than theydo today.”

The group said beef was also involved in 91 outbreaks, 40 ofthem from ground beef, while fruits and vegetables of all kindswere involved in 82 outbreaks, with sprouts and lettuce beingthe most commonly cited.

Single Cases Are Worst An outbreak is declared when two or more people are infectedfrom a single identified food. The group used data from the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medicaljournals and from state and local health departments to compileits report.

The group noted that most people who become ill from foodpoisoning or who die are not affected in outbreaks but insingle-case incidents. It said 75 million cases of foodpoisoning occur in the United States each year and 5,000 peopledie from it.

Common causes of food poisoning are salmonella bacteria,listeria, which grows in cheese and other unpasteurized dairyproducts, meat and seafood and, in recent years, a toxic strainof E. coli bacteria.

The group suggested that the CDC maintain a database on allfood-related outbreaks.