January 17, 2018

The Largest Multi-State Food Poisoning Outbreaks of 2013

The 11 largest multi-state food poisoning outbreaks of 2013 sickened 1,642 people in 48 states and Puerto Rico. Nine of the outbreaks were caused by food contaminated with bacteria: five from Salmonella, two from E.coli , and one each from Listeria and Vibrio. The other two outbreaks were caused by a virus, hepatitis A and a parasite, Cyclospora.

Child Food PoisoningThe food sources of these outbreaks included ground beef, frozen berries, salad mix served at restaurants, chicken, cilantro, cucumbers, tahini paste, cheese, raw shellfish, frozen snack foods and prepared salads.

Four of the outbreaks were caused by imported foods: Cyclospora from salad greens and cilantro imported from Mexico; Hepatitis A from a frozen berry mix containing contaminated pomegranate seeds imported from Turkey; a Salmonella outbreak from tahini paste imported from Turkey and a Salmonella outbreak linked to cucumbers imported from Mexico. The other seven outbreaks were from food produced domestically.

The reported number of people sickened in these outbreaks generally reflects individuals with confirmed cases of infection from a pathogen. This is done by culturing a stool sample. The actual number of people sickened is much greater than the totals reflected in these outbreaks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC uses a multiplier specific to each pathogen to estimate the actual number of people sickened. For example, Salmonella has a multiplier of 30.3. The five multi-state outbreaks caused by Salmonella during 2013 had a total of 672 confirmed cases. Using the CDC’s multiplier, the actual number of people sickened in those outbreaks was 20, 362.

This year, two of the largest multi-state outbreaks were caused by the same product from the same company. Foster Farms chicken caused two Salmonella outbreaks, the second and fourth largest multi-state outbreaks of the year.

Geographically, these outbreaks reached all but two states: South Carolina and Maine. Patients ranged in age from less than 1 year old to 94 years old. At least 368 people were hospitalized. Two people died and one woman suffered a miscarriage.

Over the last 11 days, Food Poisoning Bulletin has published summaries of all 11 of these outbreaks. To read them, search our site. A list of the outbreaks follows.

The largest outbreak was the 25-state Cyclospora outbreak that sickened 631 people. Number two is the ongoing 23-state outbreak linked to Foster Farms chicken that has sickened 416 people. The 10-state Hepatitis A outbreak linked to Townsend Farms frozen berries sold at Costco stores was third. The fourth was another Salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms chicken, this one a 13-state outbreak that sickened 134 people. Number five was a 13-state Vibrio outbreak linked to raw shellfish that sickened 104 people. Number six was a Salmonella outbreak linked to imported cucumbers from Mexico that sickened 84 people in 18 states. Number seven was and E.coli outbreak linked to Farm Rich frozen snack food items ┬áthat sickend 35 people in 19 states. Number eight was a four-state E.coli outbreak linked to prepared salads made Glass Onion Catering and sold at Trader Joe’s that sickened 33 people.┬áNumber nine was a ground beef Salmonella outbreak that sickened 22 people in six states. Number ten was a nine-state Salmonella outbreak linked to imported tahini paste that sickened 16 people and killed one person. And the 11th-largest multi-state outbreak of 2013 was a Listeria outbreak linked to Crave Brothers cheese that sickened six people. One person died and one pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage.

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