U.S. States Get Progress Report for Outbreak of Food-Borne Illness Responses

January 24, 2011

Variability of state reporting is reason for concern, says the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The current rate of U.S. reporting on outbreaks of food-borne illness is unsatisfactory, according to a state-by-state assessment conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI; Washington, DC).

Using 10 years of data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and CSPI’s “Outbreak Alert!” database, CSPI created report cards for all 50 states based on how each state detected, responded to, and reported outbreaks of food-borne illnesses during that time.

Grades were based on number of reported outbreaks per one million people. Full results are available in CSPI’s report, “All Over the Map.”

  • A grades: Oregon, Minnesota, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Washington, and Wyoming.

  • B grades: Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, and Vermont.

  • C grades: Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.

  • D grades: Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.

  • F grades: Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Montana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and South Carolina.

“States that aggressively investigate outbreaks and report them to CDC can help nail down the foods that are responsible for making people sick,” said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal. “But when states aren’t detecting outbreaks, interviewing victims, identifying suspect food sources, or connecting with federal officials, outbreaks can grow larger and more frequent, putting more people at risk.”

Low grades may be predicted by lack of funding for public health services, which creates understaffed and overburdened state health departments, said CSPI.

The organization also notes that the percentage of solved outbreaks has declined over the last 10 years, with peak reporting at 44% in 2001 compared with 34% reporting in 2007.

The recent passage of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act could improve this situation, said CSPI.