By the Numbers

—According to the Food and Drug Administration’s National Milk Drug Residue program, producers, processors, veterinarians, and regulators appear to be doing a good job keeping animal drug residues out of the milk supply. In fiscal year 2001, says the FDA, only 3,401 of the 4,203,616 samples analyzed—or 1/10th of one percent—tested positive for animal drug residues. A total of 4.3 million milk tests were completed in FY 2001, on 14 different drugs or families of pharmaceutical compounds. Forty-seven testing methods were used to analyze the samples for residues.

—According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) an estimated 83,000 cases of hepatitis-A occur in the United States every year, and at least five percent of these cases are related to foodborne transmission. In 1999, says the CDC, over 10,000 people were hospitalized due to hepatitis-A infections and 83 people died. These numbers come to us via the Seattle law firm of Mahler Clark, who are calling upon all restaurants and food manufacturers to voluntarily vaccinate employees against hepatitis-A. In 2001, Marler obtained a $1.06 million settlement on behalf of 29 persons who were infected with hepatitis-A after eating contaminated food at two Seattle Subway Sandwich franchises.

—According to the World Water Council, an estimated 1.2 billion people around the planet lack access to safe water—with the numbers increasing to 3.1 billion by 2025 if current trends continue. The council, an international agency supported by the United Nations and World Bank, is seeking 10,000 volunteers from around the globe to describe water problems affecting their lives and to suggest solutions. Perhaps the most spectacular water disaster described on the Council’s Web site (www.worldwaterforum.org/voice/en) is in Bangladesh, where UNICEF drilled thousands of wells without realizing the groundwater contained high levels of soluble arsenic. Now an estimated 36 million people in the country are suffering from arsenic poisoning.

—According to the recently released Institute of Food Technologists Expert Report “Emerging Microbiological Food Safety Issues: Implications for Control in the 21st Century,” as surveillance of foodborne illnesses and the science recognizing their causes improves, we can expect more outbreaks to be reported—even as food safety measures improve. Based upon current national surveillance data, public health officials estimate 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 fatalities occur annually. Only 18 percent of these foodborne illnesses are attributed to known causes, according to information referenced within the report. And although 200 or so diseases are known to be transmitted by food, current data suggest there are many more that are still unidentified. The IFT Expert Report states that critical advancements in information gathered from farming and processing sites, retail food surveillance, antibiotic resistance monitoring, and active foodborne illness monitoring projects are necessary for a true farm-to-table food safety surveillance system.

—According to a recently completed study by the British market analyst Datamonitor, one adult in three mistakenly believes he has a food allergy, whereas the true number of people with this condition is only one in 50.

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