FDA is now using cutting edge biotechnology whole genome sequencing to help identify the sources of foodborne illness outbreaks. This technique involves identifying the precise sequence of DNA constituents in a bacterial sample taken from people with an illness, and compares it to samples taken from suspected foods.
Over the past few decades Americans have been subjected to numerous outbreaks of food-borne illness from bacterial contamination. One of the most problematic causes has been E. coli O157:H7, which produces a potent toxin that can severely damage kidneys and cause death.
Since June, the CDC has been notified of nearly 400 cases of infection by the parasite Cyclospora in seventeen states. At least twenty-two people have been hospitalized because of this outbreak.
Introduction Food safety is a matter of great interest and serious concern to consumers in the 1990s. But today's media, armed with red-flag words such as "toxin" and "carcinogen," often report alleged health hazards in the American diet as fact. This has led many consumers to believe, erroneously, that our modern food supply is inherently dangerous because it contains such synthetic chemicals as food additives and pesticide residues.
Background While food safety in the United States has been and continues to be very good, outbreaks of foodborne illness and deaths attributable to such illnesses have caught the attention of the public, the media,1,2 and governmental agencies. The perception that such outbreaks are increasingly frequent and serious are prompting queries into the best means of reducing their frequency and extent.