What Caused So Many Food Outbreaks in 2018?

In 2018, the CDC announced 21 major food outbreaks. Salmonella was the culprit in a vast majority of multistate events last year. However, there were close to a hundred instate outbreaks that the CDC didn’t mention. Therefore, many Americans are asking: why were there so many?

About U.S. Food Outbreaks

Every year, thousands of people in the United States contract food poisoning. Most people recover relatively quickly and easily, but in some cases, serious long term medical problems, significant lost time from work, and even fatalities occur. Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or drink. A variety of pathogens or germs can contaminate beverages or meals. These pathogens range from bacteria, viruses, and parasites to even chemicals or other harmful toxins. Norovirus and Salmonella are among the most common pathogens. The leading causes of food poisoning are from eating improperly cooked or handled food. In fact, food poisoning is usually preventable and simple. The World Health Organization reports that simple hand washing can reduce foodborne illnesses by 35 %. Also, properly separating raw meets from cooked ones prevents cross-contamination of pathogens.

The Increase of Food Outbreaks in 2018

Top scientists at the CDC, the FDA, the USDA, dozens of academic research facilities, and food industry organizations all say technological advances are key variables in the outbreak detection formula. Since 2009, the development of new laboratory techniques has fine-tuned the detection and identification of pathogens. Thus, these advances pinpoint a bacteria outbreaks quicker. 

The technology is whole genome sequencing (WGS) along with a CDC database. Both allow public health officials to link seemingly unrelated patients by using fingerprints of specific strains of pathogens. Then, these agencies can identify outbreaks earlier. Scientists match lab test results from those who consumed contaminated products to pathogens isolated from samples of food. The FDA, USDA and other state health officials collect food samples as part of routine, random testing programs.

Lack of Sourcing

However, with all the technology available to detect new food outbreaks, there is a huge gap in being able to pinpoint the source of the pathogen. For example, the most recent romaine E. coli outbreak from November 2018 – December 2018. The CDC identified the bacteria in romaine lettuce. But, the agency didn’t know which region grew the contaminated produce. Finally, weeks later, the CDC pinpointed certain counties in California. However, the investigation is still ongoing as to what contributed to the outbreak. It took almost a whole year before the agency discovered the source of the last romaine outbreak. One farm reused water contaminated with manure. Therefore, technology may identify pathogens quicker, but it doesn’t mean these government agencies know where the food outbreaks begin from.

Help After Food Poisoning

Food poisoning lawsuits play an important role in keeping food systems safe. These lawsuits hold negligent corporations accountable. Plus, it shows lawmakers that food safety is imperative.  When people are injured from outbreaks caused by bacteria or viruses, most of the time it is from a manufacturer being negligent. The company is fully aware of their potentially dangerous practices and do not correct it. Thus, customers’ lives are endangered. This is unacceptable, and you deserve compensation to help pay for medical bills, loss of pay and other costs from food outbreaks. We have over 20 years representing injured consumers. Our consultations are completely free. Contact us today.


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