Foodborne illness- what are the rates in the UK, Australia, Canada and the USA?

After a bit of a break, we’re back with more succinct summaries of BMJOG content. As always, there are a fantastic range of articles published in BMJOG within the last month and these can all be accessed free-of-charge on the website.

As we head back into blogs, we’re going to take a look at the epidemiological article published by Holland et al. In this work, from the Food Standards Agency, the team look at whether rates of illness from foodborne course are comparable across the world. The team point to difficulties in mathematical models when estimating foodborne illness, whilst the importance of being able to understand illness rates internationally is vital to reinforce and safeguard trade in food commodities. The research compared foodborne illness estimates from the UK to Australia, Canada and the USA, and undertook analyses in an attempt to account for differences in the analytical approaches applied in each country.

Overall, the published foodborne illness rates were lowest in the UK, however after accounting for the assessment used (cohort study or telephone survey) in the UK for counting illnesses this lower rate largely disappeared. Differences in specific pathogens where generally removed when accounting for different methods used for counting illnesses. Interestingly, Salmonella infection remained higher in North America even after accounting for methodological differences. The authors conclude that foodborne illness models have to be considered in a country specific way and this makes comparison difficult. It is possible to account for differences in methodology but care must be taken in the interpretation of this.

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