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CDC Foodborne Outbreak: Foods That Kill

Tim Boyer's picture
Cantaloupe a source of food-born disease

Last year, Listeria contamination of cantaloupe led the CDC to officially rank Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe the status of “foodborne outbreak” as agricultural and health officials scrambled to find the source of the food contamination that eventually led to 146 reported illnesses and 30 deaths across the U.S. However, what few know is that there were as many as a dozen other food-related contaminations by pathogenic organisms that also officially earned the classification of “foodborne outbreak” by the CDC. What follows is a list of the top foods that killed or sickened consumers in the U.S. in 2011.

According to the CDC, in order for a food-related disease to earn the classification of “foodborne outbreak,” it requires the following conditions: two or more people who have contracted the same illness by consuming the same food or drink. It’s as simple as that.
However, what is not so simple and why the requirements seem so low is that by the time a particular food, its source, and the reason for the illness are determined, potentially thousands of others may become sickened or die from a foodborne outbreak.

The mission of the CDC is to ensure that there is a rapid and coordinated surveillance, detection and response to foodborne outbreaks that can cross state lines and lead to both a natural and national disaster.

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The following is a list of foodborne outbreaks, the responsible pathogenic organisms, and some of the origins of the contamination for the year 2011:

• Ground Beef—Salmonella Typhimurium
• Romaine Lettuce —Escherichia coli O157:H7
• Kosher Broiled Chicken Livers—Salmonella (Heidelberg)
• Turkish Pine Nuts—Salmonella Enteritidis
• Jensen Farms Cantaloupes—Listeria monocytogenes (Colorado)
• Ground Turkey—Salmonella (Heidelberg)
• Whole, Fresh Imported Papayas—Salmonella (Agona, Ghana)
• Alfalfa and Spicy Sprouts—Salmonella Enteritidis
• Chicks and Ducklings—Salmonella (Altona) and Salmonella (Johannesburg)
• Turkey Burgers—Salmonella (Hadar, Ethiopia)
• Lebanon Bologna—Escherichia coli O157:H7
• Del Monte Cantaloupe—Salmonella (Panama)
• Hazelnuts—Escherichia coli O157:H7

To learn about a new discovery that may prevent another Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe foodborne outbreak in the near future follow this link at

Reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Image source of Cantaloupe: Wikipedia