CDC study: Hummus tops the list of foods that sickened people

Hummus, the food CDC says makes more people sick than any otherYou might eat hummus because it's healthy and tasty, but the Mediterranean treat topped the list of foods that made people sick in a single outbreak, according to a just-released study of outbreaks of food poisoning that sickened people.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied 2007 data and reviewed a total of 1,097 food borne disease outbreaks that led to 21,244 illnesses and 18 deaths. Salmonella and norovirus were the top contaminants.

Salmonella was the cause of illness in two of the three largest outbreaks that year. Hummus was the top source with 802 illnesses, the CDC reported. Another Salmonella outbreak was linked to frozen pot pies that sickened 401 people. The second biggest outbreak was connected to 526 cases of norovirus at a conference hotel.

Before condemning hummus, however, the outbreak that pushed the dish to the top of the charts was at a single event -- the Taste of Chicago.

"Knowing more about what types of foods and foodborne agents have caused outbreaks can help guide public health and the food industry in developing measures to effectively control and prevent infections and help people stay healthy," Chris Braden, acting director of the CDC's Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases said in a statement.

The CDC said foodborne norovirus typically happens when an infected food handler doesn't properly wash after going to the bathroom. Salmonella is usually due to contamination from animal feces.

Among 235 outbreaks involving a single type of food, the largest number of illnesses were:
  • poultry (691)
  • beef (667)
  • leafy vegetables (590)
If you really want to dig into the sources of foodborne illnesses, the CDC has a searchable database of outbreaks that occurred between 1998 and 2007.
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