Introduction

Although the U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world, we face ever-changing challenges. There have been wide-scale changes in food processing and packaging technology. Forty to fifty years ago, most foods were manufactured and distributed locally. Today we have large production facilities that distribute foods nationwide, as well as internationally. The globalization of the food supply means that food can become contaminated in one country and cause outbreaks of foodborne illness in another. The centralization of the food supply also provides an opportunity for foodborne pathogens to cause illness in a large proportion of consumers. Foodborne pathogens have developed resistance to traditional preservation techniques (e.g., heat, refrigeration, acid) and with the advent of new processing and preservation technologies, foodborne pathogens will adapt to these new technologies thus becoming resistant to them as well.

The U.S. now has a larger proportion of the population that is immunocompromised or elderly. This segment of the population is more susceptible to foodborne illness. The demographics of the American population have changed with more people living in and around large cities. The dietary habits of consumers have changed as well. More people are eating fresh fruits and vegetables now than five to ten years ago. With all of these changes, one naturally expects to see a change in the prevalence of foodborne pathogens.

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