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New CDC Data on Foodborne Disease Outbreaks

Three teenage girls eating panini sandwichesOutbreaks provide important insights into how germs spread, which food and germ combinations cause illnesses, and how to prevent infections. Public health and industry use outbreak data to create information on prevention, education, and policy.

CDC has a long history of summarizing outbreak reports from local and state health departments. CDC collects outbreak data and makes it available to the public. Tracking and reporting outbreak data is the first step towards prevention.

Highlights of New Reports:

CDC published two new reports for 2011 and 2012. The data from these reports help show the human impact of foodborne disease outbreaks.

Chart: Foodborne Disease Outbreaks, 2011-2012. Outbreak report: 1,632. Cases of illness: 29,112. Hospitalizations: 1,750. Deaths: 68. Source: Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System, 2011-2012 are the most recent years for which outbreak data are finalized.

Number and Causes of Outbreaks

  • 1,632 foodborne disease outbreaks, 29,112 illnesses, 1,750 hospitalizations, and 68 deaths
  • 793 outbreaks caused by a single, confirmed pathogen
  • Most common causes of outbreaks:
    • Norovirus: 41% of reported outbreaks
    • Salmonella: 25% of reported outbreaks

Number and Causes of Outbreak-Related Illnesses

  • 18,880 (65%) outbreak-related illnesses caused by a single, confirmed pathogen
  • 1,501 (8%) resulted in hospitalization
  • Most common causes of outbreak-related illnesses:
    • Norovirus: 46% of outbreak-related illnesses
    • Salmonella: 34% of outbreak-related illnesses

Did You Know?

You can search CDC's Foodborne Outbreak Online Database (FOOD) for data on foodborne disease outbreaks reported by state, local, territorial, and tribal health departments since 1998.

Setting of Outbreaks

Among the outbreaks with a single known food preparation setting, foods were prepared most- commonly at or by:

  • Restaurants, specifically sit-down dining style restaurants: 60% of outbreaks,
  • Caterers or banquet facilities: 13% of outbreaks
  • Homes: 13% of outbreaks

Germs and Foods

  • Pathogens and foods responsible for the most outbreak-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths in 2012:
    • Illnesses
      • Salmonella in fruits (446 illnesses)
      • Salmonella in fish (425 illnesses)
      • Salmonella in chicken (345 illnesses)
    • Man lying in hospital bedHospitalizations
      • Salmonella in chicken (109 hospitalizations)
      • Salmonella in fruits (55 hospitalizations)
      • Salmonella in fish (55 hospitalizations)
    • Deaths
      • Listeria in dairy (5 deaths)
      • Campylobacter in chicken (4 deaths)
  • Among the 192 outbreaks attributed to a food composed of ingredients from a single food category, the categories most often implicated:
    • Fish (16%)
    • Vegetable row crops (12%)
    • Dairy (10%, nearly all unpasteurized)

Campylobacter Outbreaks on the Rise since 2009

  • The number of outbreaks caused by Campylobacter increased from 15 outbreaks in 2009 to 25 in 2010, 30 in 2011, and 37 in 2012. During 2011 and 2012, 37 outbreaks were linked to foods; unpasteurized (raw) milk was responsible for the largest number of outbreaks.

Chart: Rising number of Campylobacter outbreaks from 2009-2012.

Source: Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System, 2009-2012.

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