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Produce-associated foodborne disease outbreaks, USA, 1998–2013

  • S. D. Bennett (a1), S. V. Sodha (a1), T. L. Ayers (a1), M. F. Lynch (a1), L. H. Gould (a1) and R. V. Tauxe (a1)...

The US Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) gives food safety regulators increased authority to require implementation of safety measures to reduce the contamination of produce. To evaluate the future impact of FSMA on food safety, a better understanding is needed regarding outbreaks attributed to the consumption of raw produce. Data reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System during 1998–2013 were analysed. During 1998–2013, there were 972 raw produce outbreaks reported resulting in 34 674 outbreak-associated illnesses, 2315 hospitalisations, and 72 deaths. Overall, the total number of foodborne outbreaks reported decreased by 38% during the study period and the number of raw produce outbreaks decreased 19% during the same period; however, the percentage of outbreaks attributed to raw produce among outbreaks with a food reported increased from 8% during 1998–2001 to 16% during 2010–2013. Raw produce outbreaks were most commonly attributed to vegetable row crops (38% of outbreaks), fruits (35%) and seeded vegetables (11%). The most common aetiologic agents identified were norovirus (54% of outbreaks), Salmonella enterica (21%) and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (10%). Food-handling errors were reported in 39% of outbreaks. The proportion of all foodborne outbreaks attributable to raw produce has been increasing. Evaluation of safety measures to address the contamination on farms, during processing and food preparation, should take into account the trends occurring before FSMA implementation.

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Author for correspondence: S. D. Bennett, E-mail:
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