The Emerging Pathogens Institute (EPI) has released its report on the top ten most dangerous food-pathogen combinations for the United States.
Food safety is often overlooked, but it costs billions of dollars each year and causes millions of illnesses. Let’s take a look at just the top 5 most dangerous pathogens.
- Salmonella costs $3.3 billion with over 1 million illnesses and 378 deaths.The most common source of Salmonella is poultry followed by mixed dishes. Contamination in mixed dishes is usually due to mishandling, cross contamination, or improper food temperatures. Tomatoes, sprouts, cantaloupe, and eggs were found to carry Samonella less often.
- Toxoplasma gondii costs $2.97 billion with over 86,000 illnesses and 327 deaths. Toxoplasma is the parasite that is ordinarily associated with cat litter. Normally, it is not harmful except to pregnant women and when ingested. There has been a greater emergence in foods such as rare, cured, or dried pork and beef.
- Listeria monocytogenes costs $2.65 billion with over 1500 illnesses and 255 deaths. Listeria was found as a primary threat in retail deli meats and soft unpasteurized cheeses like queso fresco. Other possible, but less likely sources of Listeria are unpasteurized milk, raw produce, raw meats, and raw fish.
- Campylobacter (tied at third) costs $1.74 billion with over 845,000 illnesses and 76 deaths. Contaminated raw poultry was found to be the most common transmitter of this pathogen. Campylobacter can also be found in other raw meats
- Norovirus costs $2 billion with over 5 million illnesses and 149 deaths. Norovirus is sometimes referred to as the cruise ship virus because it can spread rapidly in communities sharing close quarters. Norovirus was most commonly found in mixed dishes from fecal contamination. Norovirus can be the result of not heating foods to a high enough temperature.
This report was not meant to be a warning message or to scare consumers. The FDA, USDA, and local state governments are in charge of major food safety precautions. Consumers should educate themselves and take proper precautions in order to avoid contamination such as maintaining safe food temperatures and avoiding cross contamination.