Food-borne illnesses infect millions of people each year, and a new report identifies which foods are most likely to make people sick.

The Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (Ifsac) is a collaborative group, made up of researchers from the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This new report marks the first time that all three of these agencies have used a single method to measure food safety. Utilization of a single standard among agencies could assist researchers in measuring the spread of disease in the United States.

"We can do more as a group than we can individually," Chris Braden from the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases at the CDC said.

Records of 1,000 outbreaks of food-borne disease were examined, in order to trace their source. Reports of Listeria monocytogenes and Campylobacter infections were studied, in addition to E. coli O157 and salmonella. Together, the four pathogens are responsible for 1.9 million cases of food-borne illness in Americans every year.  

The group of researchers examined 17 classes of foods, determining that three of the four classes of microbes were carried by just two groups. However, salmonella was found to be spread among foods in eight food classes.

Salmonella infections were found to be spread through a wide variety of foods, including chicken, pork and beef.

Over 80 percent of all cases of one form of e-coli infections were connected to vegetables grown in rows, as well as consumption of beef, the researchers concluded.

Half of listeria cases were found to be spread through contaminated fruits, with 31 percent of illnesses being the result of bacteria carried through diary products. A total of 46 percent of the E. coli variety examined in the study was found to be spread in beef, and 36 percent on vegetables grown in rows. Diary was the carrier of 66 percent of Campylobacter illnesses, while chicken was responsible for eight percent of cases.

Around 18 percent of salmonella cases were spread by vegetables grown from seeds, followed by eggs and fruits (12 percent), chicken (10 percent), beef (nine percent), and pork and sprouts, each at eight percent.

"These attribution estimates combined with additional data, can be used to inform agency priorities, support development of regulations and performance standards and measures, and conduct risk assessments, among other activities," Ifsac officials reported.

The 2016 federal budget plan proposed by President Obama calls for the establishment of a single federal regulatory agency charged with ensuring food safety across the nation. Two Democratic senators, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Richard Durbin of Illinois, have crafted legislation in Congress that would create such an agency.

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