U.S. meat and poultry industry gratified by CDC data showing declines in foodborne illness

WASHINGTON, April 14 /PRNewswire/ — Continuing reductions in foodborne illnesses in the United States announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) correspond to continuing reductions in pathogenic bacteria on meat and poultry products, according to the American Meat Institute Foundation (AMIF).

The CDC said that infections from E. coli O157:H7 are down 42 percent since the baseline years of 1996-1998. Over the same time period, USDA has observed a sustained decline in the positive samples of E. coli O157:H7 in its ground beef sampling program. Just last month, USDA announced a 43.3 percent drop in positive E. coli O157:H7 tests in the ground beef samples tested by USDA. CDC said today that the U.S. has achieved its Healthy People 2010 goal of less than one E. coli O157:H7 infection per 100,000 people five years ahead of schedule.

CDC also said that listeriosis cases declined 40 percent since the baseline years. This corresponds to a sustained decline in the incidence of Listeria monocytogenes on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, according to USDA data.

“We are gratified to see that foodborne illnesses continue to trend downward–the same way pathogenic bacteria on many meat and poultry products are trending downward,” said AMIF President James H. Hodges. The AMI Foundation conducts research and education programs aimed at reducing and ultimately eliminating foodborne bacteria on meat and poultry products. For the past decade, AMIF has conducted millions of dollars in research to find ways to enhance meat and poultry safety–research that has been applied with enormous success in meat and poultry plants nationwide. The meat industry has developed and shared best practices aimed at making meat products safer for consumers.

According to Hodges, increasing consumer awareness about ways to handle food and prevent foodborne illness is contributing to these encouraging public health trends. He detailed some of the most important food safety steps consumers can take when handling meat and poultry:

* Cool it — Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. “With hot weather approaching, be sure to refrigerate meat and poultry promptly after purchasing at the grocery store,” Hodges said. “Delaying the trip home increases food temperatures and allows any bacteria that are present to multiply.”

* Clean it — Wash hands, utensils, cutting boards and other items that have come into contact with raw meat and poultry with hot, soapy water.

* Separate — Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods to avoid cross contamination. “Be sure to get a clean plate when removing cooked foods from the barbecue. Don’t use the same plate to hold cooked food that once held raw meat and poultry,” Hodges said. “And be sure to discard remaining marinade.”

* Cook it — Meat and poultry products should be thoroughly cooked prior to consuming them. Hodges urged consumers to use instant-read thermometers to ensure doneness, particularly when cooking ground products like hamburgers, which must be cooked to 160 degrees F. “Never rely on internal color because it can be misleading,” he said. “And never eat or even taste raw ground beef.”

Hodges said that children, pregnant women, immuno-compromised people and older Americans are at greater risk of contracting foodborne illnesses. They and their caregivers are encouraged to visit http://www.meatsafety.org/ for more detailed safe handling information about meat and poultry products.

These new data tell us that the steps the industry has taken are working, but we are not prepared to declare victory. Rather, the data will encourage us to sustain our efforts at identifying new and better technologies to make meat and poultry even safer,” Hodges said.


Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account. Comments won't automatically be posted to your social media accounts unless you select to share.