CDC’s foodborne illness data is out of date, claims AMI Foundation

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Foodborne illness Food safety

The American Meat Institute Foundation (AMIF) has called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to update foodborne illness data that it claims is out of date.

The CDC’s estimates of the prevalence of foodborne illness are frequently cited by the news media, public health authorities, regulatory agencies, and others. It claims that approximately 76m Americans suffer from foodborne illness each year, and of those, about 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die.

But the AMIF has challenged these statistics, saying they are based on figures from a 1999 report called “Food-Related Illness and Death in the Untied States” ​and the food industry has since invested heavily in improving its food safety practices. The AMIF also claimed that the CDC promised to update this report and has been working on new data “since before 2007”.

No one from the CDC was available to respond to a request for comment prior to publication.

AMIF’s director of scientific affairs Betsy Booren said in a letter to the CDC: “In order to improve food safety and further reduce the risk of foodborne illness, it is absolutely critical to have the most accurate estimation of foodborne disease as the cause of illness, hospitalizations and deaths.”

Booren pointed to the discrepancy between estimates of foodborne illness (about 76m a year) and actual cases of reported illness (about 100,000). This gap has been largely credited to widespread underreporting of foodborne illness.

However, the AMIF claims that allowances for underreporting are no longer valid, as public health reporting has improved since 1999.

“These 11-year old estimates also virtually ignore the newer, more accurate and specific methods of detecting microorganisms and the vast progress made by the food industry in improving the safety of their products over the last decade,”​ the foundation said.

The AMIF’s letter to the CDC can be accessed online here​.

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