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Chicken- and egg-related illnesses on the rise in U.S.

Will proposed Obama speedup of poultry processing cause more illness?

May 14, 2012
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chickenFoodborne illnesses caused by chicken and eggs are a growing problem in the United States, according to a new report covering a decade's worth of data.

According to "FoodNet in 2012 - A Foundation for Food Safety in the United States," Salmonella Enteritidis infections are increasing. Chicken and eggs are likely major sources. The report was produced by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), which tracks important foodborne illnesses trends and provides information used to assess the impact of food safety initiatives on the burden of foodborne illness.

The sickness rates could go higher, if concerns about a proposal  by the USDA that would double the line speed in poultry-processing plants and allow poultry companies to conduct the inspections are validated.

Various food- and worker-safety advocates say faster speeds would endanger workers and increase the number of diseased chickens being allowed into the food system.

The National Council of la Rasa, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the American Federation of Government Employees and Food & Water Watch predict that the new USDA rules would put poultry workers at increased risk of job injuries and the public at increased risk of harmful food.

By shifting inspecting responsibilities to the poultry industry, the USDA says it will $90 million.

Plant owners are expected to see a $256 million yearly profit.

Other findings:

•The overall frequency of illnesses caused by the six most common foodborne diseases (Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157, Yersinia and Vibrio) was 23 percent lower in 2010 than in 1996-1998. However, a comparison of 2006-2008 to 2010 indicates that progress has slowed recently.

•Fourteen percent of the illnesses caused by the seven most common foodborne diseases are attributable to contact with animals.

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