Trust Magazine

Foodborne Pathogens Remain a Serious Threat to Public Health

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Ted Horowitz Getty Images

The world is currently focused on the coronavirus, which is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets. But foodborne pathogens such as some types of E. coli (pictured) remain a serious threat to public health. In 2019, lethal strains of E. coli transmitted through cattle grazing near fields of leafy greens and lettuce in California’s Salinas Valley caused three outbreaks of foodborne illnesses that sickened people in dozens of states, according to a report by the Food and Drug Administration. Pew’s food safety project works to reduce the risks posed by contaminated produce by advocating for better laws and regulations. Sometimes, however, the best way to solve a thorny problem is to convene a multistakeholder meeting in which all of the interested parties—in this case, farmers, cattle ranchers, and officials from federal, state, and local government agencies—can share concerns and shape solutions. Pew is working to foster such conversations as part of its efforts to help reduce these preventable diseases.

States of Innovation

Apple factory, sorting machine
Apple factory, sorting machine
Report

A Guide for Conducting a Food Safety Root Cause Analysis

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Report

Learning from food contamination events and foodborne illness outbreaks helps uncover weaknesses in food safety systems and is a foundational property of a truly prevention-based system. Foodborne illness investigation methods continue to evolve to keep pace with changing hazards, technologies, and food production, processing, and distribution systems in an increasingly globalized food supply.

Farm to Fork
Farm to Fork
Report

Food Safety From Farm to Fork

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Report

Contaminated meat and poultry products are responsible for an estimated 2 million illnesses in the United States each year, and amount to more than 40 percent of all bacterial foodborne diseases. The annual cost of illnesses—for instance, direct medical costs, lost income, and productivity—attributable to consumption of these foods has been estimated at about $2.5 billion for poultry, $1.9 billion for pork, and $1.4 billion for beef.

Groceries
Groceries
Article

Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

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Article

Each year, foods contaminated with bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens sicken an estimated 48 million Americans and cause between $15 billion to more than $70 billion in health-related costs. These illnesses can be significantly reduced if producers and regulators adopt prevention-based strategies to decrease the risk of contamination that can make people sick. Pew’s research and policy recommendations inform researchers, the food industry, federal food safety regulators, and the lawmakers who provide oversight and funding for food safety programs. This collection explores lessons learned from recent outbreaks, and steps that producers and federal authorities have taken—or could take—to prevent future ones.

In Memoriam: Arthur Edmund Pew III Gathering the Evidence, Making the Case