CDC: Most foodborne illnesses linked to produce

Atlanta – Leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach were the main source of foodborne illnesses from 1998 to 2008, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Using disease outbreak data, CDC estimated illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths from 17 different food products. More than 13,000 foodborne disease outbreaks were reported, with 271,974 illnesses occurring.

Nearly half (46 percent) of the illnesses were tied to produce, with leafy vegetables topping the list. CDC said norovirus was a large factor – the stomach virus is highly contagious and outbreaks often involve foods that are eaten raw, such as leafy greens.

Most of the 1,451 foodborne deaths were traced to poultry (19 percent), followed by dairy (10%) and vine-stalk vegetables such as peppers (7%).

Researchers said the findings suggest efforts are needed to prevent contamination of produce and poultry.

The report is scheduled to be published in the March issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

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