How to Report a Foodborne Illness - Health Departments
How do I report a case of foodborne illness?
Infection with Salmonella, Shigella, botulism, Listeria, 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 suspected foodborne illness and individual illnesses suspected to be 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.
Public health laboratories contribute importantly to the 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.
State public health laboratory directors, and state and territorial epidemiologists should report information for Shigella, Salmonella, and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli isolated from human sources to the Laboratory—based Enteric Disease Surveillance (LEDS) system. In addition to reports through LEDS and the Nationally Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (NNDSS), the Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch at CDC requests that standardized forms be used to report some conditions, such as typhoid and paratyphoid fever, listeriosis, cholera, and other Vibrio illnesses. These forms are available through CDC’s National Case Surveillance for Enteric Diseases page.
Botulism: Any suspect case of botulism is considered a public health emergency due to the severity of the illness and the possibility that a source food may cause others to become seriously ill. Suspect botulism cases should be reported immediately to your State Health Department. CDC staff are available 24 hours a day to provide consultation on diagnosis, treatment or investigation, as well as antitoxin release by calling 770.488.7100.
How do I report a foodborne disease outbreak?
Most states require that local health departments report outbreaks of illnesses related to a food source to their state health department. If you are unsure, please contact your state health department.
If you work in a state health department, we request that you report any foodborne disease outbreak through the state administrator of the Electronic Foodborne Disease Outbreak Reporting System (eFORS).
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.