One in six suffer from foodborne illness each year, CDC says

While a bill to overhaul the nation’s food-safety system is still in limbo, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said that one in six Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses each year.

Further, nearly 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year, according to the CDC report released Wednesday. CDC said the report is the first comprehensive look at food illnesses since 1999.

Although the new numbers are lower than 1999 estimates, the CDC said they are more accurate. However, the numbers included a fair amount of uncertainty — unspecified agents accounted for 38 million of 48 million illnesses annually, while the remaining illnesses are due to 31 known foodborne pathogens. 

Proponents of the food-safety overhaul said the new CDC report highlights the need for the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which is in the Senate's omnibus spending bill.

“If we do not act quickly to modernize our food safety system, millions more Americans will fall ill due to contaminated food, and thousands more will die,” said bill sponsor Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) in a statement.

House Democrats last week tucked the food-safety bill into a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through Sept. 30, despite objections from Republicans. It narrowly passed the House, 212-206, before going to the Senate.