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Why Outbreak Surveillance Is Important

Outbreak surveillance provides valuable insights into the foods, germs, and settings linked to foodborne diseases.1 CDC scientists analyze and publish outbreak surveillance data reported by state, local, and territorial public health departments.

Learn more about the importance of outbreak surveillance.

Outbreak Disease Surveillance
What does surveillance data identify? Why is this data important?
Common and rare foods associated with outbreaks
  • Shows changes over time in commonly reported foods and offers insight into the effectiveness of regulations and control measures.
  • Aids in identifying specific pathogen-food pairs repeatedly linked to outbreaks and illnesses.
New and emerging pathogens as well as ongoing problems
  • Aids in the timely identification of etiologic agents and can lead to appropriate prevention and control measures.
  • Provides information on the relative public health importance and impact of specific pathogens.
Food preparation and consumption settings where outbreaks occur
  • Helps to identify food preparation and handling practices that can be targeted by interventions to reduce foodborne diseases.
Points of contamination needing prevention and control measures
  • Pinpoints areas where action can be taken to reduce contamination by pathogens.
    • Improvements at multiple points of food production (e.g., farm, slaughterhouse, and production plant) can contribute to reducing contamination in the food supply.
Trends in foodborne disease outbreaks
  • Illustrates how outbreaks have changed over time and provides information about the efforts needed to prevent them.
  • Measures progress toward food safety goals to reduce the incidence of illness caused by selected pathogens.


  1. Gould LH, Walsh KA, Vieira AR, Herman K, Williams IT, Hall AJ, et al. Surveillance for foodborne disease outbreaks – United States, 1998-2008. MMWR. 2013;62 Suppl 2:1-34.