CDC assembles rogues gallery of food bugs

Scott Hensley

About Scott Hensley

Scott Hensley runs NPR's online health channel, Shots. Previously he was the founding editor of The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog and covered the drug industry and the Human Genome Project for the Journal. Hensley serves on AHCJ's board of directors. You can follow him at @ScottHensley.

listeriaThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can use as much Latin as it wants to put a fancy face on the bugs wreaking havoc on our food supply, but Campylobacter, Bacillus cereus and Listeria monocytogenes are nothing but nasty in our book.

Just take a look at the CDC’s first roundup of foodborne disease outbreaks. Nearly 28,000 people were sickened in 1,270 outbreaks in 2006. Eleven people died. The most common troublemakers were norovirus, which causes the so-called stomach flu, and Salmonella, the culprit in the recent peanut butter contamination that sickened hundreds.

The most cases (1,355) of food poisoning came from contaminated poultry. But don’t smirk, vegetarians. Leafy vegetables were the next biggest category (1,081 cases), followed by fruits and nuts (1,021 cases).

In fact, Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety guru at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, pointed out to The New York Times, that if CDC had combined all produce categories, outbreaks associated with vegetables would have dwarfed those from feathered creatures. Yuck!

Bad Bug Bonus: We kid you not. The FDA has an online resource called The Bad Bug Book for those of you hungry for the lowdown on these microscopic pests.

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