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Information for Health Departments

Steps in an outbreak investigation.

A foodborne outbreak investigation goes through several steps. Learn more about how CDC investigates outbreaks.

The vast majority of reported foodborne disease outbreaks involved only one state.  State, local and territorial public health departments have the primary responsibility for identifying and investigating outbreaks and voluntarily reporting outbreaks to CDC through a web-based program, the National Outbreak Reporting System (NORS). For foodborne outbreaks, NORS interfaces with the Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System to collect information, such as:

  • Date and location of the foodborne outbreak
  • Number of people who became ill and their symptoms
  • Food implicated in the outbreak
  • Setting where the food was prepared and eaten
  • Pathogen that caused the outbreak

State public health laboratories are also critical to track foodborne infections and outbreaks in the United States. Public health laboratories conduct “DNA fingerprinting of germs commonly transmitted through food, including Salmonella, Shigella, Listeria, and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.