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US Report: Food Poisoning Increasing at a Higher Rate

``For some reason, campylobacter is making people sick with lots of different fingerprints,'' Tauxe said.

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food poisoning
FILE - These products displayed in a Redwood City. Calif., grocery store were subject to meat giant Cargill's recall of 36 million pounds of ground turkey linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak, Aug. 3, 2011. VOA

As recent illnesses tied to raw turkey, ground beef, cut melon and romaine lettuce suggest, U.S. food poisoning cases don’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report Thursday that the frequency of several types of food poisoning infections climbed last year, but that the increases could be the result of new diagnostic tools that help identify more cases.

Overall, the agency believes food poisoning rates have remained largely unchanged.

Dr. Robert Tauxe, director of the agency’s foodborne illness division, said the figures show more needs to be done to make food safer. He noted the two most common causes of infection have been longtime problems.

One of the two, salmonella, can come from an array of foods including vegetables, chicken, eggs, beef and pork. The other germ, campylobacter, is commonly tied to chicken. People may not hear as much about it because health officials often can’t group cases into outbreaks. Both bacteria are spread through animal feces.

“For some reason, campylobacter is making people sick with lots of different fingerprints,” Tauxe said.

Obstacles to better understanding

The report is based on monitoring in 10 states, but is seen as an indicator of national trends. It highlights the difficulty in understanding food poisoning when so many cases go unreported, diagnostic methods are inconsistent, and production practices and eating habits are constantly changing.

With chicken, for instance, companies have brought down salmonella rates in raw whole carcasses since the government began publishing test results of individual plants. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture only recently began posting similar data for raw chicken parts like breasts and legs, which Americans have gravitated toward over the years.

Last year, the agency said 22 percent of production plants did not meet its standard for limiting salmonella in chicken parts. The USDA said in a statement that it’s working to improve its approach to fighting bacteria, including with the publication of such data.

food poisoning
This 2004 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows gram-negative campylobacter fetus bacteria. As of April 2019, recent illnesses tied to raw turkey, ground beef, cut melon and romaine lettuce suggest U.S. food poisoning cases don’t appear to be going away anytime soon. VOA

Despite such efforts, salmonella and campylobacter are allowed in raw poultry sold in supermarkets, noted Tony Corbo of Food and Water Watch, an advocacy group that supports stricter food safety regulations. It’s why health experts advise people to properly handle and cook poultry.

“There is very little the USDA can do besides posting the report card on salmonella,” he said.

The National Chicken Council says the industry has been working to bring down contamination rates, including through germ-killing solutions sprayed on raw chicken during processing, improved sanitation and increased use of vaccines. But the group says the bacteria are endemic in chickens and that eliminating them is difficult.

The CDC report also notes produce is a major source of food poisoning, citing recent E. coli outbreaks tied to romaine lettuce. It said outbreaks tied to produce also contributed to a big jump in infections from a parasite called cyclospora.

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The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees the safety of fruits and vegetables, said in a statement that a recently developed test is helping it detect the parasite in produce. The agency is also implementing new regulations for produce, though food safety experts note the inherent risk with fruits and vegetables that are grown in open fields and eaten raw.

The CDC said is still working to confirm how much increases in food poisoning cases can be chalked up to new diagnostic methods. It noted some results of a newer, faster test could be false positives. (VOA)

Next Story

Pharmacist-led Interventions May Prevent Heart Related Illnesses: Study

Pharmacist-led interventions may prevent heart disease

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Heart diseases
Interventions by pharmacists such as medical review and patient education can prevent heart diseases. Lifetime Stock

Researchers have found that pharmacist-led interventions such as patient education, medication review, and medication management can be pivotal in preventing heart related illnesses.

The study, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, support the involvement of pharmacists as healthcare providers in managing patients with hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol.

“The evidence presented in this review provides an important message to health systems and policymakers regarding the effectiveness of general practice-based pharmacists’ interventions,” said study researcher Abdullah Alshehri from University of Birmingham in the US.

During the finding, the research team assessed medical literature for relevant randomised controlled clinical trials assessing the effectiveness of pharmacist-led interventions delivered in the general practice in reducing the medical risk factors of cardiovascular events.

They identified 21 trials involving a total 8,933 patients.

Healthy heart
Patients receiving pharmacist-led interventions experienced significant reductions in heart diseases. Lifetime Stock

Pharmacist-led interventions included patient education, medication review and counselling, physical assessment, assessing adherence, lifestyle modification, and medication management such as prescribing, adjusting, monitoring, and administering therapy and identifying drug-related problems.

The most frequently used pharmacist-led interventions were medication review and medication management.

Patients receiving pharmacist-led interventions experienced significant reductions in their systolic blood pressure (by an average of -9.33 mmHg); Hemoglobin A1c, a measure of blood sugar levels (by an average of -0.76%); and LDL-cholesterol (by an average of -15.19 mg/dl).

Pharmacist-led interventions also helped patients correctly follow their prescribed medication regimens.

“The significant reductions in blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood cholesterol reported in this meta-analysis, if sustained in clinical practice, could have significant implications for managing hypertension, diabetes and dyslipidaemia that could prevent cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” Alshehri said.

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Alshehri noted that the findings support a greater involvement of pharmacists in general practice.

“This will benefit health organisations by providing cost-effective care associated with greater control of patients’ conditions and their medications,” he said. (IANS)