December 8, 2019

CDC Releases Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released its Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks in the United States from 1998 to 2008. This data describes the number of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths from contaminated food and water.

cdc_logo1During that time frame, there were 13,405 foodborne disease outbreaks, which resulted in 273,120 cases of illness, 9,109 hospitalizations and 200 deaths. Note that these numbers are much smaller than the 48 million illnesses estimated every year; that’s because most foodborne illnesses are not reported to public health officials.

Of those outbreaks, 7,724 had a known contaminated food or ingredient. The commodity most implicated were poultry, fish, and beef. The pathogen-food combinations most responsible for outbreaks were scombroid toxin and fish (317 outbreaks), ciguatoxin and fish (172 outbreaks), Salmonella and poultry (145 outbreaks), and norovirus and leafy vegetables (141 outbreaks). Overall, fish was responsible for 17% of outbreaks; poultry 17%; and beef 14%. Viruses replace bacterial pathogens as the most common group reported in foodborne disease outbreaks.

The number of outbreaks attributed to eggs declined, because of a decrease in the amount of Salmonella outbreaks linked to eggs. But outbreaks linked to leafy greens increased and outbreaks linked to dairy products also grew.

Most of the outbreaks had a single or suspected agent that accounted for 75% of the illnesses. Pubic health officials confirmed that each agent was responsible for the illnesses in 63% of outbreaks. Eight pathogens caused 89% of the single-etiology outbreaks: norovirus, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), scombroid toxin/histamine, Clostridium perfringens, Staphylococcus enterotoxin, ciguatoxin, and Campylobacter. Furthermore, the percentage of outbreaks for which officials found a cause increased from 40% in 1998 to 67% in 2002.

Of the outbreaks, a single place of food preparation was reported for 86%. Most (68%)were associated with food prepared in a restaurant or deli, 9% with food prepared in a private home, 7% with food prepared by a catering or banquet facility, and the remainder with food prepare din another place. The largest outbreaks occurred in institutional settings, such as prisons, schools, and camps.


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