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Fast Facts

Did You Know?

Graphic: A Bed

Illnesses & Outbreaks
 

  • A foodborne illness occurs by eating contaminated food. 3
  • Illnesses that are not part of outbreaks are called "sporadic." 3
  • Outbreaks contribute only a small proportion (less than 5 percent) of lab-confirmed foodborne illnesses.4
  • A foodborne outbreak occurs when two or more people get the same illness after eating the same food.5
  • Many outbreaks result from food being contaminated when it is prepared or served by a food worker with improperly washed hands.6
Graphic: Family holding hands

Impact on People
 

  • Millions of foodborne illnesses occur each year in the United States, resulting in thousands of hospitalizations and deaths.7
  • Reducing foodborne illness by 10% would keep 5 million Americans from getting sick each year.7
  • Preventing a single fatal case of E. coli O157 infection would save an estimated $7 million. 7
Graphic: Microscope

Pathogens
 

  • Pathogens are germs, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause illness. 8
  • More than 250 pathogens and toxins are known to cause foodborne illness. Nearly all of them can cause an outbreak.8
  • Many types of pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, and chemicals and toxins cause foodborne illnesses. 9
  • Norovirus and Salmonella are the top two pathogens responsible for foodborne illness and outbreaks.10
Graphic: Plate, Fork, Spoon

Food
 

  • Many types of foods can become contaminated. Some foods that have been linked to outbreaks are eggs, fish and shellfish, meat, nuts, poultry, raw (unpasteurized) milk, and raw fruits and vegetables. 11

References

  1. CDC. About NORS
  2. CDC. Foodborne Illness Surveillance, Response, and Data Systems.
  3. CDC. Investigating Foodborne Outbreaks.
  4. CDC. Attribution of Foodborne Illness.
  5. Gould LH, Walsh KA, Vieira AR, Herman K, Williams IT, Hall AJ, Cole D; Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks — United States, 1998–2008. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2013 Jun 28;62(2):1-34.
  6. CDC. Foodborne Disease Outbreaks Are Deadly Serious – What You Can Do to Avoid Them.
  7. CDC. Food Safety: A Winnable Battle [PDF - 2 pages].
  8. CDC. Investigating Foodborne Outbreaks.
  9. 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 2011;17:1--15.
  10. CDC. Investigating Foodborne Outbreaks.
  11. Gould LH, Walsh KA, Vieira AR, Herman K, Williams IT, Hall AJ, Cole D; Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks — United States, 1998–2008. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2013 Jun 28;62(2):1-34.
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