The Center for Science in the Public Interest gave Missouri an "F" in reporting food-borne illness outbreaks. The report, published Jan. 19, failed 14 states and gave only 2 states an "A".
The report, titled "All Over the Map: A 10-year Review of State Outbreak Reporting," grades the 50 states on how well they detect, investigate and report food-borne illness outbreaks.
Higher and lower grades between states could mean a difference of budgetary means, a difference of staff members or policy constraints.
Two of Missouri's neighbors received a "B," Kansas and Illinois. The report encourages states to look at how other states are doing well despite the budgetary crises.
"We hope that this report can start a dialogue about this and people go to the governor and say, "Hey, look! We need some money!" Sarah Klein, Attorney with Food Safety Program at CSPI said.
During his State of the State Address, Gov. Jay Nixon proposed cutting spending in several state departments, including the Department of Health and Senior Services. His proposal would cut 6.15 percent from the department, totaling roughly $821,000.
"Our overall goal is to inform consumers in ways that can affect public policy issues," Klein said. "The reason we are looking at the way that states deals with reporting is because it really deals with public food safety in general."
Klein said an outbreak is defined as two or more illnesses, which can be linked to either the same food source or pathogen. Grades are given to states according to their level of investigating and reporting systems.
According to Andrew Lough of MU Dining Marketing Services, the campus rarely encounters a food-borne illness case.
"As part of the marketing service, we take food-borne illness very, very seriously," Lough said. "We have a lot of training and lot of processes in place to not only minimize food-borne illnesses, but also to investigate any cases and report those that come forth as soon as possible."
Oregon and Minnesota were the only states to receive "A's" for their high-quality laboratory facilities, public health departments and quickness to interview individuals with possible outbreaks.
The two states report around nine outbreaks per million people each year, whereas Missouri reports only one outbreak per million people.
"What we found is that the states are not doing an equal job in investigating and tracking food-borne illnesses," Klein said.
Dick Fancher, MU Environmental Health and Safety Sanitarian, investigates all outbreak cases on campus, looking at diet, temperature logs and any food-handling glitches. In agreement with the report, Fancher believes the public also has a responsibility to report outbreaks.
"People have to be trained to know that, should they have a case of salmonella or one of these, it does have to be reported," Fancher said.