Thursday, January 20, 2011

Kentucky gets an 'F' for how it handles food-borne illnesses

Kentucky is one of 13 states to receive an "F" for the way it handles food-borne illnesses, the Lexington Herald-Leader's Mary Meehan reports.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest report looked at data from the Centers for Disease and Prevention from 1998 to 2007. Ironically, the report gave the highest letter grades to the states that had the highest incidences of food-borne illness. "Those states are the most likely to have robust detection and reporting systems," the CSPI concluded.

"States that aggressively investigate outbreaks and report them to CDC can help nail down the foods that are responsible for making people sick," said CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal. "But when states aren't detecting outbreaks, interviewing victims, identifying suspect food sources, or connecting with federal officials, outbreaks can grow larger and more frequent."

During the period of study, Kentucky only reported 25 outbreaks, resulting in 193 people getting ill. Of those outbreaks, 75 percent involved 26 to 50 people, Meehan reports.

Dr. William Hacker, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said sizable changes have been made in the past five years, including hiring 18 epidemiologists to help prevent and study outbreaks. "I believe the report doesn't actively reflect what is happening in Kentucky," he said.

Seven states, including Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming, were given "A" grades. Kentucky, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia all received failing grades. The study noted the states with the lowest grades are in climates "conducive to pathogen growth." (Read more)

For a fact sheet on new legislation that addresses gaps in outbreak reporting, click here.

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