Hey, So Maybe It Wasn’t the Egg Nog!

By on Monday, December 20th, 2010

We’re not sure if this is encouraging news, or scary in a whole, new way, but this week the Center for Disease Control reports that far fewer of us are spending quality time in the bathroom (or hospitals) from food-borne illness than was reported in years past.

According to the new study, 47.8 million cases of the yuck can be directly blamed on salmonella, E.coli 0151, listeria, and the like, down from the previous estimate of 76 million. Good news, right? Well, sort of.

Before you run out and buy that box of burgers or dive into a bowl of spinach and bean sprouts, consider this: It’s not that the numbers have gone down, exactly; they’ve just shifted because doctors and scientists are getting better working with the data available.

In the words of the new study’s author, J. Glenn Morris, Jr of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida, “How safe is our food? Put another way, how much illness in the United States is caused by foodborne pathogens? It sounds like a simple question. Getting a reasonable answer, however, is far from simple. The basic problem lies in the fact that only a small fraction of foodborne disease cases get reported through official (or unofficial) reporting systems. Calculating the “real” rate of foodborne illness requires development of models that use reported cases as a starting point to estimate underlying disease rates. Given the plethora of pathogens that can be transmitted through foodborne routes, this is a complex, and somewhat daunting, process.”

But they’re workin’ on it!

Written by Amy Zavatto

Amy Zavatto, Toque's East Coast editor, is a food, wine, spirits and travel writer for books and magazines.


  1. Hey, Amy – I don’t trust this study.

    I got sick by GOING to the hospital one Fourth of July, so my hunch is people are just staying home when they get food poisoning.

    Plus, with so many people without health insurance and the bad economy, all the more reason to just struggle through at home.

  2. Amy Zavatto says:

    I guess that’s kind of the point — they’re saying, “Food-borne illness rates are down!” but really they’re not exactly; the study is just looking at the glut and re-appropriating the causes. So, the same amount of people are getting sick, they’re just able to say x, y, and z weren’t salmonella, e.coli, et al.

    I do not doubt for a second that you go sick in a hospital — sometimes they’re the worst places of all! Especially considering that, if you’re there, your immune system is probably already compromised.

  3. Amy Zavatto says:

    RT @ToqueMag: Hey, So Maybe It Wasn't the Egg Nog! http://bit.ly/h41Kiw

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