Foodborne Illnesses in America

Complex Factory Foods pose the Highest Risk – Published on Global Research.ca, by Rady Ananda, August 14, 2011.

A close look at the people behind the raw milk scare, and the actual numbers of foodborne illness, reveals that politics more than science drives the food safety agenda in the U.S. … //

… Yet, in a single case of contaminated pasteurized milk, over 16,000 people became ill in Illinois and several other Midwest states. Later, up to 5 of them died. That 1985 calamity was called the “worst outbreak of Salmonella food poisoning in U.S. history.” [11]  It even beats last year’s half-billion egg recall with just over1,900 confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning. 

In a 1983 Massachusetts milk contamination case, 49 people became ill. Later, 14 of them died.  An inspection found the pasteurization process up to snuff, leading scientists to question relying on pasteurization to kill listeria. [12]

70% of all foodborne illnesses come from factory foods; Dairy is safest of all food.

Here is where a political agenda drives scientific reporting. The 2011 UF report [6] sought to determine which pathogens and which foods pose the highest risk. “Complex foods” (defined as non-meat factory foods with a host of additives) accounts for a whopping 70% of the 3,861,128 annual foodborne illnesses UF considered. (p.9)

Dairy, on the other hand, accounts for 434 illnesses. That’s about 1/100th of a percent, “almost all” of it “due to soft-ripened cheeses” – mostly queso fresco, a soft cheese made from raw milk favored in the Hispanic community. (p.43)

UF developed a ranking system based on various factors including “quality of life,” a term used by DHS. This is where numbers can be massaged to show an increased risk that wouldn’t be obvious from raw numbers.  This probably explains how UF ranked dairy risk #5 in a field of 10, despite that factory foods sickened 2,689,877 people and dairy sickened only 434.

Ignoring their qualitative factors and using just the UF numbers of illness and death for each food category, the following charts show which foods sicken or kill people the most:

(read online this chart: Ranking the Risk of illness).

From UF’s own data, dairy is the safest food on the market, with the least number of illnesses – a number so small (1/100th of a percent of all foodborne illnesses) that it can be ignored when talking about risky food.

Of the 3.8 million incidents of foodborne illnesses UF considered, only 765 people died. That’s one death per five thousand illnesses. You are more likely to die in a car crash – a risk most of us take every single day of our adult lives.

So, fully grasping the minute scale we’re zooming in on now, of the eight food categories, dairy ranks #6 in risk of death.  You’re twice as likely to die from a foodborne illness traced to factory foods (18% of all deaths) than you are from dairy (9%).

Keep in mind that “almost all” of those dairy deaths are from soft-ripened cheese, not raw milk.  Though made with raw milk, no one knows where in the cheesemaking process the cheese became contaminated. It could have occurred at any of several stages and have had nothing to do with the milk itself.

It takes a pretty strong imagination to justify ranking dairy the fifth riskiest food in the nation when it only accounts for 1/100th of a percent of all foodborne illnesses. But that’s what UF did.

Given Grooters’ fear mongering against raw dairy despite CDC evidence proving otherwise, she is not at all a surprising choice for Secretary Vilsack to have made. But it is rather disingenuous to characterize her as representing consumers, when, clearly, she represents corporate aims to shut down natural dairy.

If Obama truly wanted to develop a science-based food safety policy driven by risk-based analysis, raw dairies would be promoted rather than criminalized. Instead, what we see is support for factory-processed foods adulterated with genetically modified organisms, drugs, chemicals, nanomaterials, rat droppings, and wood [22] – all permitted by the FDA.
(full text).

(Rady Ananda specializes in Natural Resources and administers the sites, Food Freedom and COTO Report. To obtain a full copy of this report, including Notes and Sources Used, click here. Rady Ananda is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Rady Ananda).

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