Inadequate oversight faulted for tainted foods

The American Meat Institute quickly responded with a statement pointing out that the study's data linking pathogens to specific foods is lacking.

"The U.S. meat and poultry industry benefits when our products are as safe as we can make them, and that’s our goal every day that we produce our products," said AMI Executive Vice President James Hodges. "A report from the University of Florida is a novel new analysis of food safety, but highlights an area that should be strengthened: our lack of data that clearly identifies which foods cause foodborne illnesses."

The statement goes on to say that sampling data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) shows that "bacteria on many meat and poultry products have declined dramatically" in recent years.

After Campylobacter-infected poultry, the riskiest combinations according to the study are toxoplasma in pork, listeria in deli meats and salmonella in poultry.

More than 100,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 die every year in the U.S. because of contaminated food. The study faults a fragmented oversight system and proposes specific remedies for different types of contaminations, including a recommendation that the Food and Drug Administration and the USDA coordinate efforts to track and tackle salmonella outbreaks.

"The lack of a unified strategy," says a summary of the study, "has impaired the government's ability to appreciably reduce Salmonella risks."

This post was updated at 2 p.m. with a statement from the American Meat Institute.