May 29, 2024

Foodborne Illness is Back to Pre-Pandemic Levels

Foodborne illness is back to pre-pandemic levels for some pathogens, according to research published in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) for the week of June 30, 2023. The incidences that were higher were infections caused by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, Yersinia, Vibrio, and cyclopsora. Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, and Listeria illness levels did not change.

Foodborne Illness is Back to Pre-Pandemic Levels


In other words, progress in reducing enteric infection levels was not observed in 2022. The report states that collaboration among food growers, processors, retail stores, restaurants, and regulators is needed to reduce pathogen contamination during poultry slaughter and to prevent contamination of leafy greens.

During the pandemic, foodborne illness incidences dropped for several reasons. There was less dining at restaurants, people cooked at home more, and fewer people went to the doctor when they had symptoms of foodborne illness. In addition, part of the increase may be that many pandemic interventions ended in 2022.

The incidence of Salmonella infections, which did not change, were still above the Healthy People 2030 target. And the most common infection, caused by Campylobacter, remained among the Healthy People Target as well. Poultry is the most commonly identified source of Campylobacter and Salmonella infections.

In 2021, FSIS published new guidelines for poultry slaughter and processing establishments to try to control Campylobacter in raw poultry. Recommendations were also made to reduce the incidence of pathogen colonization in birds, such as vaccination and the use of pre- and probiotics. A new regulatory framework was also proposed in 2022 to try to control Salmonella in poultry products. And in 2023, FSIS released a proposed notice of determination to declare Salmonella an adulterant in not ready to eat raw breaded stuffed chicken products.

It is discouraging that foodborne illness is back to pre-pandemic levels, but prevention measures targeted at reducing food contamination must be emphasized. Better understanding of why foodborne illness decreased during the pandemic could help officials create more mitigation strategies.

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