The incidence of the most common foodborne illnesses has changed very little over the past three years, according to a 10-state report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings are from 2008 data reported by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), a collaborative project of CDC, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and 10 state sites.

FoodNet monitors foodborne disease and conducts related epidemiologic studies to help health officials better understand the epidemiology of these infections in the United States. Each year, the current data is compared to the previous three years and the period from 1996 to 1998, the first three years of surveillance. The FoodNet population is similar to the U.S. population and therefore provides reliable information on the incidence and trends of foodborne illness in the United States.

Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Listeria, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia did not change significantly when compared to the previous three years (2005-2007), the latest data showed. Although there have been significant declines in the incidence of some foodborne infections since surveillance began in 1996, these declines all occurred before 2004. The incidence of Salmonella infections has remained between 14 and 16 cases per 100,000 persons since the first years of surveillance.

"This year's report confirms a very important concern, especially with two high-profile Salmonella outbreaks in the last year," said Robert Tauxe, M.D., M.P.H, deputy director of CDC's Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. "We recognize that we have reached a plateau in the prevention of foodborne disease and there must be new efforts to develop and evaluate food safety practices from the farm to the table. The foodborne division at CDC is planning to increase the capacity of several health departments so that outbreaks can be better detected and investigated."

The USDA's Salmonella Initiative Program, which began in 2006, has already significantly reduced the presence of Salmonella in raw meat and poultry products, according to David Goldman, M.D., M.P.H., assistant administrator of USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service. "We have worked hard to reduce contamination in FSIS-regulated products and have seen marked success in Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. We are concerned about the lack of progress in reducing the incidence of foodborne illness and believe this report points to the need for better information about sources of infection."

The FDA is using new tools to help predict potential threats to foods and the best options for prevention to meet the many challenges of an increasingly complex food-supply chain, according to David Acheson, M.D., associate commissioner for foods. "The FDA is embarking on an aggressive and proactive approach in protecting and enforcing the safety of the U.S. food supply. The Agency is committed to make the necessary changes to keep unsafe products out of the marketplace before they reach consumers."

The full report, "Preliminary FoodNet Data on the Incidence of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food -- 10 States, United States, 2008" appears in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (April 10, 2008) and is available online at To learn more about FoodNet, please visit To learn more about foodborne infections, visit

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Oklahoma E. coli investigation doesn't find source

An investigation into an E. coli outbreak centered around the Country Cottage restaurant in Locust Grove, Okla., has failed to determine how the bacteria was introduced into the restaurant. The report said that they may have been ongoing foodborne transmission of the bacteria from August 15 through August 24, but no bacteria was found in the restaurant. Food samples tested showed no signs of contamination, but the tainted food might have already been thrown out.

"Clearly it was not a single food item making people sick," State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley said, according to AP reports. There were a total of 341 people sickened by the bacteria, including 70 hospitalizations and one death.

The state's attorney general, Drew Edmondson, has long blamed poultry producers for contaminating the water in the area, and he has said that the Health Department “botched” the probe. He is pursuing a lawsuit against Arkansas Poultry companies on grounds that poultry waste has polluted water supplies in the region.

Source: Associated Press

Summer cookout season leads to rising stocks for meat companies

The recent gains in the stock market, paired with the coming summer cookout season, is leading to rising share of meat processors like Tyson, Smithfield, Hormel and Sanderson Farms. While meat production is expected to be down this year, as is meat exports, the companies has seen their stock price son the rise, Reuters reports.

Tyson's shares have more than doubled since November to $11. Smithfield's shares, also at $11, have more than doubled since March. Sanderson Farms' price of $42 a share is its highest level since August. Hormel, which saw its shares dip to a low of $29.40 in March, is now priced at $31.60.

"[Meat companies] may be good compared with the alternatives," Paul Aho, economist at Poultry Perspective, said of meat company shares. "Would you put your money into GM right now or into a chicken company? I think food is going to be popular. People have to eat -- they may eat less, but they eat."

Problems stil lfacing the companies are sluggish pork and beef sectors. Slow consumer sales have kept the prices steady, but a smaller herd has kept the cost of cattle higher. Reuters reports that beef plants lost more than $50 on each head of cattle slaughtered. Beef packer margins likely will turn profitable no earlier than the summer, unless packers reduce production even more over the next several months, said Kenneth Zaslow, food analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

Source: Reuters

Canada, South Korea squabble over beef ban

Canada has files a complaint with the World Trade Organization, asking South Korea to lift a ban on the import of Canadian beef following a mad cow disease scare in 2003. According to the New York Times, Canada has asked for a consultation on the "continuing unjustified ban", and if that fails, a dispute settlement panel may be needed, Stockwell Day, the trade minister, said in a statement from Ottawa.

South Korea says it will respond aggressively to a Canadian move to take a bilateral dispute over beef to the World Trade Organization, reports the Canadian Press. The Canadian government has said WTO consultations provide an opportunity for parties to resolve disputes through discussions, and if the consultations fail, the complaining party can ask that the issue be referred to a WTO dispute settlement panel.

Sources: The New York Times, The Canadian Press

Great Steak & Potato Co. adds slider cheesteaks to menu

The Great Steak & Potato Co., will offer its Philly cheesesteaks in a Little Philly 3–inch Slider version. With a choice of grilled sirloin steak or all-white meat chicken, these Little Philly Sliders are made with grilled onions and topped with Great Steak’s famous Philly Whiz. The 3-inch sliders will be available in all locations across the country beginning April 10, 2009.

Prices for the Little Philly Sliders range from $3.99 for two and $9.99 for six or $18.99 for 12. The need for smaller, lighter but flavorful meals on the go was recognized by the company through internal market research.

“The new Little Philly Sliders are a natural new product progression for us,” commented Dean Kolligian, Great Steak brand president. “We are a Cheesesteak concept that stays true to our core competency while being innovative within the category. These cheesesteak sliders give us a chance to attract new visitors and continue to entice our regular fan base to visit more often.”

Source: The Great Steak & Potato Co.