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CDC and Food Safety

Each year, 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick from and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. Reducing foodborne illness by just 10% would keep 5 million Americans from getting sick each year. Preventing a single fatal case of E. coli O157 infection would save an estimated $7 million.

pie chart for Causes of illness in 1,335 single food outbreaks, 2003-2007. Data as follows: Poultry, 20.62%. Leafy greens, 13.88%. Beef, 10.36%. Dairy, 10.3%. Fruits, 10.02%. Vine (tomatoes, cucumbers) 9.77%. 
Pork, 6.42%. Finfish, 5.06%. Other, 4.59%. Eggs, 3.05%. Mollusk, 3.04%. Grains - Beans, 2.89%.

Causes of illness in outbreaks of single food commodities, 1998-2010

Current food safety challenges

Challenges to food safety will continue to arise in unpredictable ways, largely due to:

  • Changes in our food production and supply
  • Changes in the environment leading to food contamination
  • Rising number of multistate outbreaks
  • New and emerging germs, toxins, and antibiotic resistance
  • New and different contaminated foods, such as prepackaged raw cookie dough, bagged spinach, and peanut butter, causing illness

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A food sleuth + shoppers' card = Successful investigation

salami on cutting boardCDC’s disease detective Casey Barton Behravesh helped track the source of a 2010 outbreak of Salmonella infections that sickened more than 270 people in more than 40 states. What clue unlocked the mystery? Something most of us have in our wallets or on our key rings—a shopper card you swipe at the grocery store. After the Washington State Department of Health discovered that many ill people shopped at one grocery chain, they used shopper card information (with shoppers’ permission) to identify a food that the ill people had eaten: salami from one producer. A multistate investigation identified salami coated with pepper as the source, and it was recalled. The resourceful use of unconventional data helped CDC and its partners across the country quickly identify the source of the problem and stop the outbreak. Food sleuths continue to solve outbreaks by using shopper cards—including Salmonella contaminated Turkish Pine Nuts that sickened 43 people in 5 states in 2011.

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What is CDC's role in food safety?

Food safety depends on strong partnerships. CDC and the regulatory agencies (the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] and the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service [FSIS]) play complementary roles in the federal food safety effort. State and local health departments also play critical roles in all aspects of food safety.

tomatoes and eggsCDC provides the vital link between illness in people and the food safety systems of government agencies and food producers.

CDC does this by:

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Germs (and some foods) responsible for most foodborne illness:

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Winnable battles in food safety

  • Decrease Salmonella and other food-related infections
  • Accelerate the public health response to foodborne illness at the local, national, and global levels

We're taking action:

laboratory equipment
  • DiscoveryTracking trends and risk factors, defining the burden, finding new pathogens and drug resistance, and attributing illness to specific foods
  • Innovation—Developing new tools, methods, and analytics in epidemiology, laboratory science, and environmental health
  • Implementation—Sharing new technology and information with local, state, and federal partners; improving communications with the public health community, industry, and consumers; and targeting information to guide policy

What's next:

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Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd
    Atlanta, GA 30333
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
  • Contact CDC–INFO The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
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