Researchers identify seasonal peaks for foodborne infections

June 01, 2020

Rockville, MD (June 1, 2020) - Each year, thousands of pounds of food are wasted and billions of dollars in food sales lost because of recalls tied to foodborne infections. Using a newly developed approach, researchers identified seasonal peaks for foodborne infections that could be used to optimize the timing and location of food inspections.

"We rely upon food producers, distributors and retailers to keep food safe in fields, grocery stores and restaurants," said Ryan B. Simpson, doctoral candidate at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. "A lapse in food safety practices during any step in the food delivery and supply chain can jeopardize human health, waste food resources and threaten the national food economy."

Foodborne infections can be caused by a variety of pathogens, such as Listeria, Salmonella and E. Coli. A single pathogen can lead to outbreaks that peak in different states at different times. Knowing the patterns for each pathogen and state could be used to design an optimized schedule for food safety inspections.

To characterize the timing and intensity of infection peaks, Simpson and colleagues developed an analysis method that robustly determines which specific pathogens are likely to cause an outbreak at a given time.

Simpson will present the new analysis method as part of NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE, a virtual conference hosted by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN). The research was performed under the supervision of Elena N. Naumova, Chair of the Department of Nutritional Epidemiology and Data Sciences at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Using their new analysis method, the researchers found that although foodborne outbreaks typically peak in July, food recalls are delayed by 1 to 2 months, peaking from mid-August through mid-September. These findings were consistent across examined states and pathogens.

Next, the researchers aim to refine their analysis method by exploring specific foods and food groups linked to foodborne outbreaks. They also plan to examine relationships between outbreaks for particular pathogens with food preparation practices and other factors.

"Our future research will provide valuable information that could help refine existing food safety policies while also aiding food producers, distributors and retailers in preventing or mitigating foodborne outbreaks," said Simpson.
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This research is supported in part by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), via 2017-17072100002. The views and conclusions contained herein are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of ODNI, IARPA, or the U.S. Government.

This research is also supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service Fellowship.

Due to the cancellation of the Nutrition 2020 meeting, which was to be held in Seattle, this abstract will be presented as part of ASN's virtual meeting, NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE, which will be held from June 1-4, 2020. Contact the media team for more information or register to access the virtual content.

This release may include updated numbers or data that differ from those in the abstract submitted to NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE.

Please note that abstracts presented at NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE were evaluated and selected by a committee of experts but have not generally undergone the same peer review process required for publication in a scientific journal. As such, the findings presented should be considered preliminary until a peer-reviewed publication is available.


About NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE

NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE is a dynamic virtual event showcasing new research findings and timely discussions on food and nutrition. The online meeting, held June 1-4, 2020, is hosted by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) with support from the ASN Foundation. ASN's flagship meeting, Nutrition 2020, was canceled due to the impacts of COVID-19. https://meeting.nutrition.org #NutritionLiveOnline

About the American Society for Nutrition (ASN)

ASN is the preeminent professional organization for nutrition research scientists and clinicians around the world. Founded in 1928, the society brings together the top nutrition researchers, medical practitioners, policy makers and industry leaders to advance our knowledge and application of nutrition. ASN publishes four peer-reviewed journals and provides education and professional development opportunities to advance nutrition research, practice and education. http://www.nutrition.org

Find more news briefs and tipsheets at: https://www.eurekalert.org/meetings/nutrition/2020/newsroom/.

American Society for Nutrition

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