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CDC Report Skewed by One Outbreak, Says NCC

by 5m Editor
15 June 2009, at 10:52am

US - The latest US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report on foodborne illness is skewed by a single large outbreak, according to the National Chicken Council (NCC).

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a report on foodborne illness which presents a misleading picture of the safety of poultry. The report contains anomalies that seriously skew the results.

The report suggests that poultry is the single leading cause of outbreaks of foodborne illness, with poultry responsible for 21 per cent of outbreak-related cases. This is based on attributing 1,355 cases to poultry out of a total of 6,395 cases (21.1 per cent). However, of the total cases attributed to poultry, 741 stemmed from a single incident in an Alabama jail or prison in March 2006 which is suspected (but not confirmed, according to a publicly available CDC database) to result from Clostridium perfringens in baked chicken. Without this single incident, poultry would account for 614 of 5,653 cases, or 10.9 per cent. This would place poultry well behind other commodities mentioned in the report.

The Alabama incident also explains another oddity in the report: the high number of cases (902) attributed to C. perfringens in poultry, which typically causes problems if food is left out in the 'danger zone' between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period of time. While C. perfringens is a known cause of foodborne illness in poultry (as well as other foods), it has not previously been mentioned as a leading cause. If the Alabama cases are removed from the total, the number of cases of foodborne illness from C. perfringens in poultry in 2006 would be 161. According to the report, the average annual number of cases of foodborne illness from C. perfringens in all food sources from 2001 to 2005 was 2,077.

"America's chicken producers and processors work hard to provide safe, wholesome food to customers in the United States and around the world," said Steve Pretanik, the National Chicken Council's director of science and technology. "Any case of foodborne illness is unfortunate, but it is unfair to present a picture that is skewed by a single, unusual event."

Further Reading

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