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!