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Burden of Foodborne Illness: Findings

CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.

These estimates provide the most accurate estimates yet of which known foodborne bacteria, viruses, microbes (“pathogens”) are causing the most illnesses in the United States, and how many foodborne illnesses are caused by unspecified agents. The estimates also show that much work remains to be done—specifically in focusing efforts on the top known pathogens and identifying the additional causes of foodborne illness and death.

CDC provides 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. Read the report >

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, such as acute gastroenteritis. Read the report >

Total number of foodborne illnesses each year

CDC estimated the number of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths caused by both known and unspecified agents. CDC estimated what proportion of each were foodborne. The first table below provides estimates for domestically acquired foodborne illnesses, and the second table provides estimates for domestically acquired illnesses caused by all transmission routes.

Estimated annual number of domestically acquired, foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths due to 31 pathogens and the unspecified agents transmitted through food, United States
Foodborne agents Estimated annual number of illnesses Estimated annual number of hospitalizations Estimated annual number of deaths
Number (90% credible interval) % Number (90% credible interval) % Number (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
Estimated annual number of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths due to 31 pathogens and the unspecified agents, United States
Foodborne agents Estimated annual number of illnesses Estimated annual number of hospitalizations Estimated annual number of deaths
Number (90% credible interval) % Number (90% credible interval) % Number (90% credible interval) %
31 known pathogens 37.2 million
(28.4–47.6 million)
21

228,744
(188,326–275,601)

47

2,612
(1,723–3,819)

42
Unspecified agents 141.8 million 79 258,033 53 3,574 58
Total 179 million 100 486,777 100 6,186 100

 

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

Eight known pathogens are estimated to account for the vast majority of domestically acquired foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. The tables below list the top five pathogens causing foodborne illness, hospitalization, and death.

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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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

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

References

Scallan E, Hoekstra RM, Angulo FJ, Tauxe RV, Widdowson M-A, Roy SL, et al. Foodborne illness acquired in the United States—major pathogens. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2011 Jan [date cited]. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1701.P11101

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