Minnesota's food poisoning report card: A

This will be cold comfort to anyone hunched over a toilet puking his or her guts out, but Minnesota is one of the top states in the country for responding to outbreaks of food poisoning. The state was one of only seven in the country to earn an A from the Center for Science in the Public Interest for its efforts in reporting and investigating foodborne illnesses.

The report, in fact, singled out Minnesota and Oregon as having two of the best food safety programs in the country. The 10-year study showed that the state reported 462 outbreaks of foodborne illness from 1998 to 2007 and solved 284 of them, or more than 61 percent. The national average for solving food illnesses (meaning that both the food and the bacteria or virus were identified) was under 38 percent. The outbreaks in Minnesota caused nearly 8,000 illnesses, 200 hospitalizations, and three deaths.

Here's what else the study said about Minnesota--and some of the states that flunked.

Oddly, Minnesota received such a high grade in part because it reported more food poisonings per capita than most states. The reasoning was that the high number of reports showed a more vigorous health monitoring system. By contrast, Wisconsin, which has a similar population, was given a C in the study, reporting a little more than half as many cases as Minnesota--271--and solving 56 percent of them.

The report cited Minnesota and Oregon, in particular, as being "known for having excellent laboratory facilities and strong public health departments that quickly interview individuals who are suspect outbreak cases."

On the other hand, 14 states flunked the study, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, and Texas. Snowbirds beware: Arizona, which also has a similar population to Minnesota, was one of those that earned an F, reporting just 104 outbreaks and solving 40.

Nationwide, the five food categories linked most often to foodborne illnesses, in order, were: seafood, produce, poultry, beef, and pork.

One of the center's recommendations was that consumers should be more aggressive in reporting their suspected foodborne illnesses directly to local and state health departments. If food poisoning has made you sick enough to see a doctor, the study says, you should also ask for lab tests to find out the cause.

You can read the full report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest here.

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