Foodborne illness outbreaks number 13 so far this year

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COLUMBIA - The ongoing recall of beef, poultry and salad wraps is the latest in a year fraught with outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.

So far in 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 13 multi-state outbreaks, and it is only August.

"When two or more people get the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink, the event is called a foodborne disease outbreak," the CDC said.  

During the past decade, 2011 and 2016 had the most multi-state food borne illnesses outbreaks, with 14 each.

The cyclospora outbreak the USDA reported Monday is the third of its kind this year.

The CDC has not classified the most recent outbreak as multi-state yet. It investigates while the USDA monitors and then releases a report with more information.  

There have also been ten Salmonella outbreaks and one E. coli outbreak this year.

The products in the most recent outbreak were sold in Kroger, Trader Joe's and Walgreens grocery stores. 

Brandon Mebruer, a Cole County environmental public health specialist, said health and safety inspections in grocery stores are similar to those in restaurants.

"It's the same basic idea, but with grocery stores, sometimes they have two different establishments. They'll have a deli where they are slicing and handling meats, but there are also canned goods," he said. 

Mebruer said every item in a grocery store could potentially have a health risk. 

"There’s a lot going on in a grocery store," he said. "A typical restaurant may have a limited menu, so there’s only a few items we are dealing with, whereas, in a grocery store, everything is potentially an issue and something to pay close attention to." 

Mebruer said cross contamination of foods is one of the biggest contributors to the spread of foodborne illnesses. 

"Obviously you wouldn’t want raw chicken anywhere near your salad greens that are a ready to eat food item, so just keep in mind what food items should be separated for contamination purposes," he said. 

Mebruer recommends doing a good job of washing hands and utensils, and making sure food is being kept at the correct temperature.

"Keep the thought in the back of your mind that 'I want my food safe and this is for my family so let’s all stay safe,'" he said.