"Last year they gave these numbers some prominence," said Chris Waldrop, a director at the Consumer Federation of America. "It's very curious that they would quietly publish them on their Web site. . . . These numbers are a way to hold government accountable in reducing food-borne illnesses."
CDC officials could not be reached for comment.
The data are based on infections diagnosed by 10 state laboratories. The geographical region covered includes about 47 million people or 15 percent of the U.S. population, the CDC said.
The CDC found that the most frequent cause of infection in 2011 was salmonella, followed by campylobacter. The data also showed that progress has been made since the late 1990s in lowering illnesses linked to most of the nine pathogens that CDC tracks. For instance, infections tied to shigella were down 65 percent in 2011 compared with the average annual incidence for the period of 1996 through 1998. Those tied to E. coli O157:H7 were down 42 percent.
The trend for those two pathogens continued when comparing last year's data to the period of 2006 through 2011, with shigella infections down 43 percent and the deadly E. coli strain down 25 percent. But campylobacter infections were up 14 percent. There were small, but not statistically significant, increases in other pathogens.