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Leafy greens responsible for 46% of food-borne infections, CDC says

January 29, 2013|By Ricardo Lopez
  • A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that leafy greens accounted for 46% of food-related outbreaks from 1998 to 2008. Above, workers pick lettuce near Watsonville, Calif.
A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that… (Los Angeles Times )

Though leafy greens accounted for the most U.S. food-related illnesses, poultry caused the most deaths, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

The Atlanta-based agency examined 4,589 food-related disease outbreaks from 1998 to 2008, the first comprehensive study of its kind by the agency.

The CDC looked at outbreaks across 17 food categories and found that almost half of all outbreaks originated from leafy greens, which include lettuce and spinach.

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Researchers found that leafy greens accounted for 46% of all infections reported. Many of those illnesses were caused by norovirus, which is characterized by symptoms such as diarrhea and stomach cramping.

The agency also found that more than half of food-borne norovirus outbreaks were caused by sick food handlers, and more than 80% of outbreaks involved food prepared in commercial settings such as restaurants or catering businesses.

While meat and poultry accounted for fewer illnesses, food-borne disease outbreaks from this type of food accounted for 29% of deaths.

Of that, poultry was responsible for 19%. Many of the deaths were linked to listeria outbreaks from sliced delicatessen turkey. Salmonella was another pathogen found in poultry that also contributed to deaths.

There were a few limitations to the study, namely that the data did not account for changes over the 11-year time span. Listeria outbreaks, the agency noted, decreased substantially after 2002.

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ricardo.lopez2@latimes.com

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