Foodborne illness is a significant problem in the United States, but addressing environmental causes can help prevent it.
Foodborne illness is a significant problem in the United States.
- More than half of all foodborne illness outbreaks [PDF - 1.5 MB] in the United States are associated with restaurants, delis, banquet facilities, and schools and other institutions.
- 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.
- Many of these illnesses occur as part of a foodborne illness outbreak; 831 foodborne illness outbreaks were reported to CDC in 2012.
Environmental Causes of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks
Foodborne illness outbreaks reported to CDC often include little or no information on the environmental causes of foodborne illness outbreaks. Food safety programs need this information so they can take follow-up action to reduce or prevent future foodborne dillness and outbreaks. Regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration use this information to develop intervention strategies and recommended regulations such as the Food Code. Environmental health specialists use this information during outbreak investigations and on a daily basis for issuing permits and conducting inspections.
Environmental assessments can help identify environmental causes of foodborne illness outbreaks. Such assessments conducted as part of outbreak investigations are different from those conducted as part of routine food safety activities (such as restaurant inspections, plan reviews, and other environmental assessments).
Food safety programs have a role in the overall foodborne disease surveillance system. Environmental health specialists in these programs
- Issue permits and inspect restaurants and other retail food venues.
- Investigate outbreaks to identify their environmental causes by conducting environmental assessments during foodborne illness outbreaks and accurately reporting their findings.
- Educate restaurants on how to improve their practices and prevent outbreaks.