Food Borne Illnesses and Food Safety

Food Borne Illnesses and Food Safety

Monday, April 21, 2008

The New York Academy of Sciences

Organizers: Barry Kreiswirth, Public Health Research Institute; Michael Doyle, University of Georgia

Emerging infectious diseases are those that have newly appeared in a population or that have existed but are rapidly increasing in incidence or geographic range. Recent examples include HIV/AIDS, Lyme disease, and hepatitis C. The New York Academy of Sciences is proud to host the Emerging Infectious Diseases Discussion Group, part of our continuing lecture series. This discussion group features keynote presentations by principal investigators, along with short presentations by promising graduate students and postdocs.

Speakers: Michael Doyle, University of Georgia; Robert Tauxe, CDC; Robert Buchanan, FDA; Chuck Gerba, University of Arizona; Ewen Todd, MSU


From Wild Pigs and Spinach to Tilapia and Asia:Current Microbiological Food Safety Concerns
Michael Doyle, University of Georgia

Vegetables and fruits have become leading vehicles of illnesses associated with foodborne outbreaks. Fresh-cut produce, which is cut, shredded, diced or peeled, can pose an increased public health risk because this wounded plant tissue enables microbes to more easily attach and grow on the nutrients released from the plant. Presently neither processors nor consumers have available a treatment that assures the microbiological safety of all fresh produce contaminated with large populations of foodborne pathogens. Currently, approximately 15% of food consumed in the U.S. is imported. Developing countries are major food exporters to the U.S. and will likely become predominant sources of the U.S. food supply. Fresh produce, fresh and frozen fish and shellfish, and nuts are dominant food groups imported by the U.S. Food in many countries is not produced under acceptable sanitary practices, and FDA inspects <1% of more than 9 million imported food entries annually. Unless food production, harvesting, and processing practices are upgraded in food exporting countries that have major holes in their food safety nets, there are likely to be increases in the occurrence of foodborne outbreaks in the U.S.

Emerging Foodborne Infections: The Plant Story
Robert Tauxe, CDC

Recent foodborne outbreaks from fresh produce highlight several important trends. These outbreaks have become larger and more common over several decades, and account for more of all foodborne outbreaks than they did in the past. Recent studies of some foodborne microbes indicate that they are surprisingly well adapted to life on and in plants, and that complex ecologies may lead to contamination of produce. A few "cross-over" pathogens have been identified that can cause disease in plants and in people. Scientific examination of how intestinal microbes like Salmonella and E. coli can interact with the plants we eat may help improve prevention strategies in the future.

Emergence of Produce as a Vehicle for Foodborne Disease
Robert L. Buchanan, U.S. Food and Drug Administration

While the emergence or re-emergence of foodborne disease may occasionally involve an entirely new pathogen, it can be more typically traced to known pathogens being associated with new vehicles or conditions. Such a situation currently exists for fresh and fresh-cut produce. Over the past 15 years these foods have been increasingly associated with outbreaks of foodborne bacterial, viral, and protozoan diseases, both in the United States and internationally. The underlying reasons for this dramatic increase appear to be highly complex, involving multiple factors such as increased ability to detect diffuse outbreaks, increased consumption of fresh produce, emergence of convenient fresh-cut produce products, changes in agricultural practice and the ecology of the farm, and the globalization of the food industry. Despite extensive efforts on the part of the agricultural and food industries, the problem is proving restive, requiring a reexamination of traditional approaches to assuring the safety of these products.