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Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 03:09 GMT
Rise in severe food poisoning
Salmonellas cause most hospital admissions.
The proportion of food poisoning cases so serious that hospital treatment is required has risen over the last decade, research has found.

This is despite the total number of cases of food poisoning having halved over the same time period.

The Food Standards Agency has set a target of cutting the rates of foodborne illness by 20% by 2006.

The figures, collated by the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS), examine food poisoning trends between 1992 and 2000.

In 1992, foodborne infection was responsible for an estimated 2,869,735 cases and 21,138 hospital admissions. In total 924 people died.

By 2000, this had more than halved (53%) to 1,338,772 cases.

Death rates also fell to 480, due to fewer cases of Clostridium perfringens infection from red meat and an animal vaccination programme against salmonella.

But the percentage fall of 48% was lower than that of the overall decline in illness.

And the rates of hospital admissions fell by just 3% from 21,331 to 20,759 cases, so forming a larger proportion of all cases in 2000 than they did in 1992.


The numbers of cases attributable to salmonellas have fallen since 1997.

But cases caused by Norwalk-like viruses, shot up by 125%, and those attributable to campylobacter species rose by 45% since 1992.

Campylobacters were the most common organism responsible for foodborne infections diagnosed in general practice and rose from around 55% of hospital admissions for foodborne infections to almost 82%.

Salmonellas still remained the most common cause of death.

Infection with salmonellas, closely followed by Listeria monocytogenes were the leading causes of death, with a substantial proportion attributable to VTEC o517 strain of the bacterium E. coli.

A PHLS spokesperson said: "Although the overall number of cases of foodborne disease has fallen, a large part of this decrease has tended to be in the milder infections which result in fewer hospitalisations.

"We have seen stable levels or increases in some of the more serious infections which more often lead to hospitalisation.

"Levels of campylobacter infection increased between 1992 and 2000. There is a lot of work going on to understand better the reasons for this increase, which are not currently fully understood, but factors may include changes in eating patterns or changes in the sourcing of foods."

The research is published in the journal Gut.

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11 Jun 01 | Health
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