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Foodborne infections sharply on rise, CDC says

| Thursday, April 18, 2013, 6:48 p.m.

NEW YORK — Bacteria commonly linked to raw milk and poultry is causing an increasing number of food poisonings, health officials said on Thursday.

Cases of campylobacter grew by 14 percent during the past five years, a government study found.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report was based on foodborne infections in only 10 states — about 15 percent of the American population. But it is seen as a good indicator of food poisoning trends — the CDC refers to it as “the nation's annual food safety report card.”

Overall, food poisonings held fairly steady in recent years. There were no significant jumps in cases from most other food bugs, including salmonella and E. coli. But campylobacter rose and last year accounted for more than a third of food poisoning illnesses in those states and about a 10th of the deaths.

Health officials said it's not clear why campylobacter cases have increased, or which food or foods was the source of most of the added illnesses.

The study had another piece of bad news: There were jumps in illness caused by a group of bacteria called vibrio, which are associated with shellfish. There were fewer than 200 vibrio cases reported last year, but that's a 43 percent increase from about five years ago.

The CDC report focused on only nine types of food germs, and counted only cases that were lab confirmed. Investigators tallied about 20,000 such cases and 68 deaths in those 10 states. It compared 2012 statistics to reports in the years 2006 through 2008.

Many illnesses never get reported. The CDC estimates that as many as 48 million Americans get sick from contaminated food each year.

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