More than 80 percent of cases of food poisonings by E. coli 0167:H7 can be traced to beef and row-crop vegetables, according to a new report from the United States Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S, Centers for Disease Control.
In at least several well-documented cases, the vegetables were contaminated with livestock manure in irrigation water.
The three agencies gathered and analyzed about 1,000 cases of food poisoning cases between 1998 and 2012 caused by Salmonella, E. coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes and Campylobacter.
According to CDC estimates, these four pathogens cause 1.9 million cases of foodborne illness in the United States each year.
Almost three-quarters of Campylobacter illnesses were caused by dairy (66 per cent) or chicken (eight per cent); 82 per cent of E. coli O157 illnesses were caused by beef (46 per cent) or vegetables grown in rows (36 per cent), and 81 per cent of Listeria illnesses were caused by either fruits (50 per cent) or dairy (31 per cent).
With salmonella, the range was broader, with 77 per cent of illnesses attributed to vegetables grown from seeds (18 per cent), eggs (12 per cent), fruits (12 per cent), chicken (10 percent), sprouts (eight percent), beef (nine percent), and pork (eight percent).
I find the sprouts statistic hard to believe because they have so often caused major outbreaks of food poisoning.
Dr. Chris Braden of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases, said a single methodology allows agencies to better coordinate their efforts.
"We can do more as a group than we can individually."
His comments are in the context of a proposal from President Barack Obama to have a single agency responsible for food safety.