You might want to think twice before heading out to your favorite oyster bar.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's annual report cardon foodborne illnesses, vibrio infections – most frequently found in raw or undercooked shellfish - have increased by 75% since the CDC's previous analysis period, 2006-2008.
That's about 6,600 cases for every 100,000 people - and for every case that is reported, the CDC estimates there 142 more that aren't diagnosed.
The microbe that causes vibrio is found naturally in coastal saltwater. It only represents 1% of foodborne illness in the United States, according to the CDC, but that's still 35,000 cases of food poisoning each year. Vibrio infections are at their highest rate since the CDC started tracking nine foodborne illness-related microorganisms in 1996, according to the new report.
Food poisoning is a big deal. One in every six Americans gets food poisoning every year, with about 100,000 people going to the hospital. Children under the age of 5 and those over 65 are those most at risk.
There were also increases in campylobacter infections, the second most common foodborne pathogen in the United States. Since the 2006-2008 period, there has been a 13% increase in the number of campylobacter cases. The campylobacter bacteria is often linked to dairy products and chicken. For every case reported, the report suggests, another 30 aren't.
However, there was also some good news.
The number of cases of Salmonella, the most common foodborne illness, actually dropped by 9% compared to the last three-year period. But Dr. David Goldman with the USDA's Office of Public Health Science pointed out that while Salmonella cases have dropped this year, "the overall rate of salmonella hasn't substantially dropped overall, and we're focused on this."
The CDC, the Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration are using this data to help evaluate new standards for poultry and other areas of food safety and preparation.
As Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC's Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, pointed out, "The news is mixed. Some improvements were made but substantial more work is needed. "
Dr. Stephen Ostroff, acting chief scientist of the FDA, agreed. "The findings reinforce the importance of moving ahead with food safety from farm to consumer."