Disease Detectives Are Solving Fewer Foodborne Illness Cases

Eliza Barclay | The Salt | April 7, 2014

Recall, if you will, some of the biggest foodborne illness outbreaks of the past decade. There was the nasty outbreak of listeria from cantaloupe in 2011 that killed 33 people. And the ugly Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak from Foster Farms chicken, which has sickened 481 people in multiple states since 2013.

What do those outbreaks have in common? Well, the government solved them, tracking down both the food and the pathogen that made people sick. Because of that, we learned a lot about how to prevent future outbreaks.

But according to a report released Monday by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been reporting and solving fewer and fewer outbreaks over the past decade. In fact, CSPI says outbreak reporting dropped 42 percent from 2002 to 2011. Also during this time, "between 57 and 68 percent of all outbreaks reported annually to CDC lacked necessary information, such as the contaminated food or contaminant," the CSPI report says.