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CDC 2011 Estimates: Findings

CDC has estimates for two major groups of foodborne illnesses:

Known foodborne pathogens — 31 pathogens known to cause foodborne illness. Many of these pathogens are tracked by public health systems that track diseases and outbreaks.

*Unspecified agents — Agents with insufficient data to estimate agent-specific burden; known agents not yet identified as causing foodborne illness; microbes, chemicals, or other substances known to be in food whose ability to cause illness is unproven; and agents not yet identified. Because you can’t “track" what isn’t yet identified, estimates for this group of agents started with the health effects or symptoms that they are most likely to cause—acute gastroenteritis.

Table 1. Estimated annual number of domestically acquired, foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths due to 31 pathogens and unspecified agents transmitted through food, United States

Foodborne Agents Estimated annual number of illnesses
(90% credible interval)
% Estimated annual number of hospitalizations
(90% credible interval)
% Estimated annual number of deaths
(90% credible interval)
%
31 known pathogens 9.4 million
(6.6–12.7 million)
20 55,961
(39,534–75,741)
44 1,351
(712–2,268)
44
Unspecified agents 38.4 million
(19.8–61.2 million)
80 71,878
(9,924–157,340)
56 1,686
(369–3,338)
56
Total 47.8 million
(28.7–71.1 million)
100 127,839
(62,529–215,562)
100 3,037
(1,492–4,983)
100

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To estimate the total number of foodborne illnesses, CDC estimated the number of illnesses caused by both known and unspecified agents. We also estimated the number of hospitalizations and deaths caused by these illnesses. Table 1 provides the estimates due to known pathogens, unspecified agents, and the total burden.

Pathogens causing the most illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths each year

Eight known pathogens account for the vast majority of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. Tables 2–4 list the top five pathogens causing illness, hospitalization, and death.

Table 2. Top five pathogens contributing to domestically acquired foodborne illnesses

Pathogen Estimated number of illnesses 90% Credible Interval %
Norovirus 5,461,731 3,227,078–8,309,480 58
Salmonella, nontyphoidal 1,027,561 644,786–1,679,667 11
Clostridium perfringens 965,958 192,316–2,483,309 10
Campylobacter spp. 845,024 337,031–1,611,083 9
Staphylococcus aureus 241,148 72,341–529,417 3
Subtotal     91

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Table 3. Top five pathogens contributing to domestically acquired foodborne illnesses resulting in hospitalization

Pathogen Estimated number of hospitalizations 90% Credible Interval %
Salmonella, nontyphoidal 19,336 8,545–37,490 35
Norovirus 14,663 8,097–23,323 26
Campylobacter spp. 8,463 4,300–15,227 15
Toxoplasma gondii 4,428 3,060–7,146 8
E.coli (STEC) O157 2,138 549–4,614 4
Subtotal     88
Table 4. Top five pathogens contributing to domestically acquired foodborne illnesses resulting in death

Pathogen Estimated number of deaths 90% Credible Interval %
Salmonella, nontyphoidal 378 0–1,011 28
Toxoplasma gondii 327 200–482 24
Listeria monocytogenes 255 0–733 19
Norovirus 149 84–237 11
Campylobacter spp. 76 0–332 6
Subtotal     88

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