“Progress in reducing (intestinal) infection incidence was not observed during 2022, as influences of the COVID-19 pandemic subsided,” the CDC said in its weekly Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
“Collaboration among food growers, processors, retail stores, restaurants, and regulators is needed to reduce pathogen contamination during poultry slaughter and to prevent contamination of leafy greens.”
Listeria is a rare but serious illness that even with treatment has a high mortality rate of 20% to 30%, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. The infectious bacteria is so hardy that it can continue to grow while refrigerated.
Salmonella and E-coli are two of the more common foodborne illnesses. Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. E-coli is a common bacteria, but some strains can be dangerous, causing diarrhea, respiratory illness, pneumonia and death, according to the CDC.
A rise in some bacteria
Each year, approximately 9 million Americans are sickened by pathogens in food, according to the CDC’s Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network. Also known as FoodNet, it monitors diagnosed infections caused by eight common foodborne pathogens at 10 sites in the United States. In addition, about 56,000 people are admitted to hospitals and 1,350 die every year.
However, the number of such illnesses dropped during the pandemic, the CDC said, due to “behavioral modifications, public health interventions, and changes in health care seeking and testing practices.”
Preliminary data from 2022, however, showed those numbers have risen again: Illness from campylobacter, salmonella and shigella — all leading causes of diarrhea — as well as listeria were about the same as the yearly average during 2016–2018, the CDC said.
The rise was likely due to the end of pandemic interventions, an increase in international travel, and advanced methods of screening and testing that return quicker results, the CDC said.
In addition, sicknesses from the form of E-coli most commonly found in outbreaks — the Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, or STEC, were higher in 2022 than in previous years, likely due to the more rapid screening techniques now in place, the CDC said.