Food-borne illness frequency remains almost unchanged, CDC reports
ATLANTA The incidence of the most common food-borne illnesses has changed very little over the past three years, according to a 10-state report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The findings are from 2008 data reported by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), a collaborative project of CDC, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Food and Drug Administration and 10 state sites.
Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Listeria, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia did not change significantly when compared to the previous three years (2005-2007), the latest data showed. Although there have been significant declines in the incidence of some foodborne infections since surveillance began in 1996, these declines all occurred before 2004. The incidence of Salmonella infections has remained between 14 and 16 cases per 100,000 persons since the first years of surveillance.
“This year’s report confirms a very important concern, especially with two high-profile Salmonella outbreaks in the last year,” stated Robert Tauxe, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. “We recognize that we have reached a plateau in the prevention of foodborne disease and there must be new efforts to develop and evaluate food safety practices from the farm to the table. The foodborne division at CDC is planning to increase the capacity of several health departments so that outbreaks can be better detected and investigated.”
The USDA’s Salmonella Initiative Program, which began in 2006, has already significantly reduced the presence of Salmonellain raw meat and poultry products, according to David Goldman, assistant administrator of USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service.
“We have worked hard to reduce contamination in FSIS-regulated products and have seen marked success in Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes,” Goldman said. “We are concerned about the lack of progress in reducing the incidence of foodborne illness and believe this report points to the need for better information about sources of infection.”
The FDA is using new tools to help predict potential threats to foods and the best options for prevention to meet the many challenges of an increasingly complex food-supply chain, according to David Acheson, associate commissioner for foods.
“The FDA is embarking on an aggressive and proactive approach in protecting and enforcing the safety of the U.S. food supply,” he said. “The Agency is committed to make the necessary changes to keep unsafe products out of the marketplace before they reach consumers.”
Consumers can reduce their risk for food-borne illness by following safe food-handling and preparation recommendations and by avoiding consumption of unpasteurized milk, raw or undercooked oysters, or other raw or undercooked foods of animal origin such as eggs, ground beef, and poultry. Risk also can be decreased by choosing pasteurized eggs, high pressure-treated oysters, and irradiated produce. Everyone should wash hands before and after contact with raw meat, raw foods derived from animal products, and animals and their environments.
New mobile application brings together medical info., GPS data
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. A company based in Englewood, Colo., has developed an application for the Apple iPhone that brings together medical information and GPS data.
Healthagen created iTriage, which provides a repository of medical information and lists local healthcare providers, based on GPS location.
The company has also partnered with TelaDoc, a company that provides physician phone advice and treatment, to allow users to talk to physicians and have prescriptions called into local pharmacies.
OTC sales up 2.4%
A 2.4% growth rate across nonprescription medicines certainly speaks volumes to the value of self-care, especially when you put that growth into a little bit of context — sales of prescription medicines only climbed 1.3% in 2008, according to IMS Health. To be sure, the prescription drug dollar volume may be some 15 times greater than that of OTC, but it certainly supports the conclusions of a February Kaiser Family Foundation survey — that 35% of consumers “relied on home remedies or over-the-counter drugs instead of going to see a doctor.”
Private-label OTC medicines were tracking 8.2% higher as compared with 2007, which speaks to the value of that self-care in a depressed economy. So not only is the out-of-work, healthcare-crunched consumer selecting lower cost nonprescription treatments over the co-pays of their doctor visits and three-tiered prescription drug plans, but they’re also reaching right past the branded option for the cheaper national brand equivalent.
So what does it mean? It means pharmacists need to be aware of this economically-driven trend so that they can a) better advise their patients as to appropriate OTC solutions, and b) help their patients identify less-costly prescriptions, generics for example, when those OTC substitutions may be less than ideal.
And it means now, more than ever, OTC manufacturers need to focus on innovative product introductions, and soon. Because as important as private label penetration is to a retailer, store brands don’t drive top line sales.