Historical Outbreaks

Food-borne illnesses emerge as a result of several factors. These include the globalization of the food supply, the inadvertent introduction of pathogens into new geographic areas, individual or group exposure to unfamiliar food-borne hazards while abroad, evolution of microorganisms, increases in the immunocompromised human population (those who are aging, HIV positive, or malnourished), and increases in the numbers of people eating away from home.

Food-borne illness outbreaks can take on massive proportions. In 1988, for example, an outbreak of hepatitis A resulting from the consumption of contaminated clams affected some 300,000 individuals in China. In 1994 an outbreak of salmonellosis due to contaminated ice cream occurred in the United States, affecting an estimated 224,000 persons. In 1996 an outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Japan affected over 6,300 school children and resulted in two deaths. Outbreaks of listeriosis have been reported in many countries, including Australia, Switzerland, France, and the United States (outbreaks in France in 2000 and in the United States in 1999 were caused by contaminated pork tongue and hot dogs, respectively). As of

In December 2003, the USDA announced a recall of 10,410 pounds of beef that may have been exposed to the tissues of an animal that suffered from bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or so-called "mad cow disease." The recall generated a sensational response, even though other food-borne illnesses present a far greater danger to U.S. consumers. [AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.]

January 2002, 119 people had developed variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the human variant of mad cow disease) secondary to exposure to infected animal products. Most of those cases were in Great Britain, but five cases were reported in France.

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