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Government Says Food Poisoning Cases Have Dropped

ATLANTA - Food poisoning from bacteria like E. coli and salmonella has dropped dramatically in the United States in just six years, the government said Thursday.

Preliminary data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show substantial declines in the rates of illness from six of seven major types of foodborne bacteria from 1996 to 2001, The Associated Press reports.

The rate of E. coli fell 21 percent, salmonella 15 percent and listeria 35 percent. Shigella was down 35 percent, campylobacter 27 percent and yersinia 49 percent. Only vibrio -- a germ that shows up in raw oysters -- rose, climbing 83 percent.

Health officials suggested that tougher regulations throughout the food system are preventing tens of thousands of food poisoning infections a year.

"These data demonstrate that we are on the right track," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said in Washington. "Modern, science-based food inspection systems have contributed to our ability to control pathogens during food processing."

In recent years, the CDC has estimated that 76 million Americans a year get food poisoning. The CDC did not give a new estimate Thursday.

On the consumer end, experts said the decline in food poisoning may mean Americans are paying better attention to food safety and taking such steps as cooking meat and eggs thoroughly.

"Preventing foodborne disease requires efforts all along the chain ? farm, processing, slaughter and in the kitchen," said the CDC's Dr. Robert Tauxe. "I think that we are headed in the right direction."
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