FOOD SAFETY NEWS SCAN: EHEC outbreak update, foodborne killers, gaps in food safety act

Jun 15, 2011

German EHEC death toll rises to 38
The number of patients sickened in the Escherichia coli O104:H4 outbreak linked to German sprouts has slowed significantly, with 16 more cases reported, along with 3 new reports of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and one death, according to an update today from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The latest cases push the outbreak tally to 2,530 non-HUS enterohemorrhagic E coli (EHEC) infections, 821 HUS cases, and 37 deaths. Meanwhile, news of another death surfaced today, a 91-year-old man whose death was announced by health officials in Hamburg, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported, which would raise the death toll to 38.
Jun 15 ECDC update
Jun 15 AFP story
Meanwhile, issues related to the EHEC outbreak spilled over into the European Parliament yesterday during plenary session discussions in Strasbourg, the Parliament news Web site reported today. The European Parliament is an elected group and is one of the European Union's two legislative branches. Ministers called for compensation for people sickened in the outbreak and criticized the harm done to EU fruit and vegetable producers. They also pressed for better coordination of future outbreaks and improved enforcement of food-labeling and traceability rules.
Jun 15 Parliament story
In other developments, three more of the five US cases linked the outbreak have been confirmed as matching the outbreak strain, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today. The new confirmations raise the number of cases definitively tied to the outbreak to four, and officials are investigating one more suspected case. Four of the US cases had travel links to Hamburg, Germany, and one is a close contact of one of the travelers.
Jun 15 CDC update

Salmonella, Listeria top list of foodborne bacterial killers
Salmonella and Listeria are still the leading causes of death among foodborne bacteria in the United States, according to an analysis of data from the CDC's FoodNet program. FoodNet surveillance covers seven states and parts of three other states, comprising about 15% of the US population. FoodNet recorded 121,536 lab-confirmed bacterial infections from 1996 through 2005, according to the report by CDC and state health officials in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. Those cases included 552 deaths (0.5%), with 215 (39%) from Salmonella and 168 (30%) from Listeria. Most of the deaths (318, 58%) were in people at least 65 years old. Elderly people had the highest population mortality for all pathogens except Shigella, for which the highest mortality was in children under age 5. Listeria produced the highest case-fatality rate by far, at 16.9%.
Jul 15 J Infect Dis abstract

Experts cite gaps in Food Safety Modernization Act
The new FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), while marking an important step forward, leaves critical gaps in US food safety—such as fragmented responsibilities—and is vulnerable to underfunding, two public health law experts said in a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) commentary published online yesterday. Katie Stewart, JD, MPH, and Lawrence O. Gostin, JD, of the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University called the FSMA "a remarkable step forward for the food safety system." They write, "Overall, the FSMA brings the FDA's [Food and Drug Administration's] food safety practices more in line with core public health tenets and Institute of Medicine recommendations—with emphasis on preventing food contamination rather than reacting after consumers become ill and developing a risk-based framework for inspections and regulation." However, they say that the FSMA "leaves regulatory gaps and no assurance of adequate funding and enforcement." Gaps they identify: not including the 20% of the food supply regulated by the US Department of Agriculture, which leaves the food-safety system fragmented; exempting small producers; dependence on adequate funding; and having some goals that require other entities, including foreign facilities, to cooperate with the FDA.
Jun 14 JAMA commentary

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