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January 8, 1997

Public Health Experts Take Aim at a Moving Target: Foodborne Infections

JAMA. 1997;277(2):97-98. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540260011004

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IN THE WAKE of recent sieges by foodborne microbes, including an eruption of Escherichia coli 0157:H7 infection traced to gourmet apple juice and an outbreak of Cyclospora cayetanensis— related illness linked to Guatemalan raspberries, public health officials are circling the wagons against an evolving microbial army.

These 2 outbreaks, and other epidemics of foodborne infections in recent years, have focused attention on a dramatic shift in the epidemiology of such diseases that began roughly 15 years ago. That shift, experts note, is manifested not only by the emergence of relatively new microbial threats to human health such as E coli 0157:H7 and C cayetanensis, but also by the appearance of more familiar pathogens in foods previously regarded as "safe," such as orange juice and alfalfa sprouts.

Scientists estimate, based on several studies conducted over the past 10 years, that foodborne pathogens sicken from 6.5 million to 81 million people