WASHINGTON — State health departments completed fewer foodborne illness outbreak investigations in 2007 than in any other prior year since 1998, according to a recent analysis by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The data, which was published as part of CSPI's “Outbreak Alert” report, indicated that while states reported nearly 1,100 outbreaks to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2007, those states only completed 378 of the investigations by definitively linking the pathogen to a food.
“The decline in fully investigated outbreaks could reflect a serious gap in state public health spending,” Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI's food safety director, said in a release. “Fewer outbreaks were fully investigated by state public health departments in 2007 than in any of the previous 10 years, and a smaller percentage of outbreaks were fully characterized than in any of the previous seven years.”
Representatives from CSPI said they hope that the food safety bill passed last summer by the House of Representatives, along with companion legislation pending in the Senate, will help, since the bills will require more frequent inspections of food production facilities by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Foods regulated by the FDA were associated with more than twice as many outbreaks as foods regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the CSPI report noted.