The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday released the more than 40 years of data the agency has collected on Salmonella – the top foodborne cause of hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S.
The data, collectively called the Atlas of Salmonella in the United States, 1968-2011, summarizes surveillance data on 32 types of Salmonella isolates from people, animals, and other sources. The information is organized by demographic, geographic and other categories.
"Salmonella causes a huge amount of illness and suffering each year in the United States. We hope these data allow researchers and others to assess what has happened and think more about how we can reduce Salmonella infections in the future," said
Robert Tauxe, M.D., deputy director of CDC's Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases, says the data may help researchers and others assess what has happened and consider prevention more closely.
"The more we understand Salmonella, the more we can make progress in fighting this threat all along the farm to table chain," he said.
The Atlas provides data by age, sex, geography and season of the year in a downloadable format. It also allows users to see national trends over time, problems in specific geographic areas, sources of Salmonella, and the connection between animal and human health.
The data also shows reports of Salmonella in animals, the environment, and animal feeds, which can be sources of antibiotic-resistant strains, CDC said.
Though representing 40 years of collection, the CDC said the data is likely just the tip of the iceberg, since many cases of human salmonellosis are not diagnosed and reported to the health department.
In sum, CDC estimates that Salmonella bacteria cause more than 1.2 million illnesses each year in the U.S., resulting in more than 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths. The Salmonella group of bacteria has more than 2,500 different variations, but fewer than 100 cause the vast majority of infections in people.
Considerations in other agencies
Salmonella, sometimes found in meat and poultry products, spurred the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service to create a Salmonella action plan in December, 2013.
The plan, which outlines strategies for minimizing the threat of Salmonella – starting with modernizing the poultry slaughter and inspection process – focuses poultry inspectors' duties solely on food safety.
In this way, FSIS estimates 5,000 illnesses caused by Salmonella can be prevented each year. But lawmakers just last week countered the FSIS' data, suggesting that there's not enough evidence of fewer illnesses to support changing how inspectors are allocated in poultry plants.
The two lawmakers who challenged the Salmonella Action Plan – Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., suggested FSIS put it on hold until more testing can be completed and more significant data on microbial testing in slaughter plants is performed.