Many States Get Poor Grades for Food Poisoning Control, Says Report

sick young man - food poisoningBetter tracking and communication is needed to find causes of food borne illnesses -- and hopefully keep consumers from getting sick from food poisoning, said the nonprofit group Center for Science in the Public Interest in a report released today.

CSPI studied 10 years of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as its own Outbreak Alert! database and graded each state on their tracking of food borne illnesses -- with 29 states and the District of Columbia earning a "D" or "F."

States that got higher grades took more aggressive approaches to investigating food-borne illnesses and reporting them to the CDC, helping to "nail down the foods that are responsible for making people sick," said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal in a statement sent to Consumer Ally. "But when states aren't detecting outbreaks, interviewing victims, identifying suspect food sources, or connecting with federal officials, outbreaks can grow larger and more frequent, putting more people at risk," she said.The public interest scientists looked at data from 1998 through 2007 for the report, All Over The Map. The group found the percentage of solved outbreaks -- cases in which authorities could tag an identified food and pathogen as culprits -- fluctuated in those 10 years between a low of 30% solved in 1998 to a high of 44% solved in 2001.

The CDC's report found 80% of the estimated 48 million illnesses from food borne diseases each year can not pinpoint a cause of the sicknesses -- partly for lack of information. Part of the new U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act signed into law earlier this month calls for more coordination between federal, state and local agencies.

Here's CSPI's report card and how the states made the grade, based on their reporting and investigation of outbreaks:
  • A's went to Oregon, Minnesota, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Washington and Wyoming.
  • B's went to Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, and Vermont.
  • C's went to Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
  • D's went to Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.
  • F's were given to Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.
CSPI theorized that states getting poor grades might have lacked sufficient funding for public health services, leading to understaffed health departments.
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