US - A consumer watchdog body in the US has called on authorities to step up reporting of outbreaks of food-borne illness and improve measures to counter the threat.
A 10 year study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest shows that the number of outbreaks of food-borne illness that were solved by identifying the contaminated food and the source of the contamination fell from 41 per cent in 2003 to 29 per cent in 2012.
The report, 'All Over the Map: a 10-Year Review of State Outbreak Reporting', also found that there was a wide variation in state reporting of outbreaks.
Of the 51 states, nine reported six or more outbreaks per million population and 19 reported one or fewer outbreaks per million.
The report shows that the federal food-borne disease surveillance programmes do improve the quality of the state outbreak reporting and that the states that took part in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s FoodNet programme were successful in identifying a large number of pathogens compared to those states that did not take part in the programme.
However, the CSPI said that many states lack adequate funding and support of the public health services, which leads to a poor ability to tackle food-borne disease outbreaks.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, food-borne illness costs consumers an estimated $15 billion in health-related costs.
And the improved technical and laboratory infrastructure from federal programmes that support state surveillance systems essentially pay for themselves by identifying new strategies to reduce future foodborne outbreaks, according to CSPI.
The report calls for federal officials to lead efforts in partnership with local and state agencies to achieve faster investigations and improved comparability.
The report adds that local and state government officials and state legislators should provide adequate financial support to local, county, and state public health departments and they should encourage reporting to outbreaks to the CDC.
The CSPI recommended that public health and food regulatory officials should collaborate with laboratories, the food industry, healthcare providers and consumers to identify and solve outbreaks quickly so control measures can be implemented.
The report adds that there should be coordination with local universities and public health students to conduct interviews with consumers who may be part of the outbreak to speed an investigation.
Doctors and health care providers need to ensure that suspect cases are quickly confirmed in the laboratory and consumers need to be more forthcoming about food-borne illnesses.
You can view the full report by clicking here.