How to Report a Foodborne Illness - Healthcare Professionals
What should I do if I suspect a foodborne illness diagnosis?
Guidelines for Diagnosis and Management of Foodborne Illness [Note: this is currently being updated] for physicians and other healthcare professionals have been made available through a collaborative effort between several health agencies, including CDC. CDC has also published a Guide to Confirming the Diagnosis in Foodborne Disease.
In most cases, healthcare professionals should report foodborne illnesses to their county or city health department. Please refer to your state health department website to find more information about how to contact your local health department.
Infection with Salmonella, Shigella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and Hepatitis A are reportable almost everywhere in the United States. Infection with other pathogens may also be reportable. Authority for disease reporting rests at the state level and states voluntarily report nationally notifiable conditions to CDC. The list of nationally notifiable diseases is updated annually by the Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) with recommendations from CDC. Frequently, diagnoses remain unconfirmed until laboratory tests are completed. However, outbreaks of illness that you suspect might be foodborne and individual illnesses you think are foodborne should also be reported. By investigating foodborne disease outbreaks, public health officials learn about possible problems in food production, distribution and preparation that may lead to illness.
Diagnostic laboratorians and clinical microbiologists are typically asked to report all cases of certain infections that are often foodborne to their local health department and to submit at least the first strain isolated from each patient to the local or state public health laboratory. This is routine in almost all states for infections with Salmonella, Shigella, Listeria, and E. coli O157:H7. In case a suspected Shiga toxin-producing E. coli diagnosis in which toxin has been detected by an EIA test, but an organism has not been isolated, the diagnostic laboratory may submit the EIA-positive broth to the public health laboratory without attempting to isolate the organism. Isolates submitted to the public health laboratory are critical for surveillance of foodborne infections in the United States. Public health laboratories routinely serotype all Salmonella and Shigella, and routinely subtype all isolates of Listeria and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Many also subtype representative samples of Salmonella and Shigella isolates with PFGE, among other foodborne pathogens. For more information on the national network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories conducting molecular surveillance, visit the PulseNet website.
How can I contact CDC about a foodborne illness?
Please call CDC INFO at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
What is the difference between CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)?
FDA and USDA regulate the safety of the food supply. They inspect food products, promulgate and enforce food safety regulations, test suspect foods, and work with industry to improve safety practices. While FDA is responsible for non-meat products such as seafood, fruits, vegetables and shell eggs, USDA oversees meat, poultry and processed egg products. Both agencies work extensively with state food regulatory partners.
CDC monitors human health by disease surveillance and by assisting states in outbreak investigations. CDC is a non-regulatory, scientific agency. It aims to provide credible information in order to enhance health decisions made by the regulatory agencies, professionals in the health sector, the food industry, as well as individuals. CDC’s scientific investigations may define new problems, and areas in need of more research. CDC’s mission is “to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability”. CDC works extensively with state, local and tribal health department partners. Learn more about CDC and its duties.In regards to food, CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases (proposed) conducts surveillance for foodborne diseases, assists local and state health departments in their response to foodborne disease outbreaks, collects, organizes and publishes information on foodborne illnesses and outbreaks reported in the United States, maintains the national reference laboratories for foodborne pathogens, and develops new strategies for diagnosing and fingerprinting them.