The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a report titled “Attribution of Foodborne Illness, Hospitalizations, and Deaths to Food Commodities by using Outbreak Data, United States, 1998-2008,” based on data involving 17 food categories and the roughly 48 million people who “get sick from food eaten in the United States” each year.

While produce is evidently responsible for more food-borne illness (46 percent) than other food categories, meat and poultry apparently cause more death (29 percent) and dairy “accounted for the most hospitalizations” (16 percent). CDC’s estimates are based on the 4,589 food-borne disease outbreaks reported over an 11-year span. The report cautions that the findings should not cause people to “avoid certain categories of food,” because many food-borne bacteria can be killed by cooking to proper temperatures and a varied diet is important to a healthy lifestyle.

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal responded to the study by focusing on the role of dairy products as “big contributors to foodborne illness,” contending that “[t]he risk from dairy products has increased in recent years with the increased rise in popularity of unpasteurized raw milk and cheeses. People who consume unpasteurized dairy products have no protection from hazards like E. coli O157 and Salmonella that are commonly found in dairy cattle.” She advocates rapid implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act to address the CDC study’s findings that produce, such as leafy greens, is a “top contributor” to food-borne illness. See CSPI News Release, January 29, 2013.