Poultry, beef, and fish were the vehicles for the largest numbers of outbreaks of foodborne illness in 2008, but the number of people made ill by those sources was dwarfed by outbreaks involving peanuts and peppers, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Among the 218 outbreaks attributed to a food vehicle with ingredients from only one of 17 defined food commodities, the top commodities to which outbreaks were attributed were poultry (15 percent), beef (14 percent), and fish (14 percent), whereas the top commodities to which outbreak-related illnesses were attributed were fruits and nuts (24 percent), vine-stalk vegetables (23 percent), and beef (13 percent),” CDC said in its annual report on foodborne illness, published in the September 9 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review (www.cdc.gov/mmwr/mmwr_wk/wk_cvol.html).

Poultry accounted for 32 outbreaks of foodborne illness with 663 cases of illness, while beef had 31 outbreaks with 952 cases and fin fish had 30 outbreaks with 211 cases, CDC said in its annual report on foodborne illness.  But “fruits and nuts” had 23 outbreaks with 1,755 cases and “vine-stalk” plants had five outbreaks with 1,622 cases, the report stated.

More than 1,400 people were sickened by serrano or jalapeno peppers produced in Mexico and imported into the United States, CDC said in previous reports on the outbreaks beginning in 2008.  Another wave of salmonellosis outbreaks that year was attributed to products made by peanuts processed by the Peanut Corporation of America in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Salmonella is the largest bacterial source of foodborne illness, CDC said, although norovirus is the biggest source overall.  The “fruits-nuts” and “vine-stalk” categories accounted for 3,005 of the 4,960 illnesses attributed to Salmonella in 2008, CDC said.   Poultry accounted for 11 Salmonella outbreaks with 228 people ill, CDC said.  Eggs had seven outbreaks with 85 illnesses, pork had four outbreaks with 133 illnesses, and beef had three outbreaks with 106 illnesses, according to the report.

Salmonella is by far the largest bacterial cause of foodborne illness, the report showed, with more than 60 percent of identified bacterial cases.  But norovirus is the largest single cause of foodborne illness, accounting for 49 percent of outbreaks and 46 percent of illnesses in the 479 outbreaks in which a single cause was identified, the report said.