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New University of Florida Study Highlights Need for Better Data About Which Foods Cause Foodborne IllnessesThursday, April 28, 2011
Attribute Statement to AMI Executive Vice President James H. Hodges
Washington, DC, April 28, 2011 -- “The U.S. meat and poultry industry benefits when our products are as safe as we can make them, and that’s our goal every day that we produce our products. A report from the University of Florida is a novel new analysis of food safety, but highlights an area that should be strengthened: our lack of data that clearly identifies which foods cause foodborne illnesses.
The University of Florida researchers note that this is a weakness of their report saying, ‘Our results are limited by uncertainties in underlying data, none more so than gaps in our ability to confidently attribute cases of foodborne illnesses to specific foods.’ Given this lack of clear attribution data, the researchers were forced to make many assumptions about which foods causes various foodborne illnesses and they layer additional assumptions about the costs of those illnesses upon them. It’s difficult to build strong conclusions upon weak assumptions, yet that’s what they were forced to do.
In September 2010, the American Meat Institute (AMI) wrote to the Centers for Disease Control urging them to improve their collection of attribution data. In the letter, we said that better data will help to identify emerging foodborne risks.
While the data that the University of Florida researchers had to reply upon was imprecise, federal data about the prevalence of bacteria on foods paint a much clearer picture. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sampling data tell us that bacteria on many meat and poultry products have declined dramatically – a reassuring fact. Specifically, USDA FSIS data show that:
- From 2000 to the present, E. coli O157:H7 in raw ground beef declined 70 percent to one quarter of one percent.
- Salmonella on pork has decreased 63 percent since 2000.
- Salmonella on raw ground beef has declined 42 percent.
- Listeria monocytogenes on ready-to-eat meat products declined by 74 percent since 2000 to almost one third of one percent (0.37 percent).
- Since 2003, no federal recalls of ready-to-eat meat products have occurred due to listeriosis illnesses.
We are confident that the strategies we use
in our meat and poultry plants are creating an
increasingly safe meat and poultry supply. We
look forward to improved foodborne illness
attribution data that will reinforce that and
reassure consumers that confidence in the U.S.
meat and poultry supply is