Safer Food Saves Lives

Stopping Multistate Foodborne Outbreaks

Millions of Americans get sick from foodborne germs each year. Most foodborne outbreaks occur among small groups in a local setting. Outbreaks that make people in more than one state sick with the same germ are less common but more severe. Although only 3 percent of all U.S. foodborne outbreaks are multistate, they cause more than a third of the hospitalizations and 56 percent of the deaths in all foodborne outbreaks.

  • Deadly germs involved in multistate foodborne outbreaks cause more serious illness. Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria caused 91 percent of multistate foodborne outbreaks from 2010-2014. These germs can contaminate foods such as vegetables, beef, chicken and fresh fruits that are distributed across the country, and make people sick in many states. The 120 multistate outbreaks reported during this period included 7,929 illnesses, 1,460 hospitalizations, and 66 deaths.
  • Multistate outbreaks are hard to detect, investigate and solve. Contaminated food grown or produced in a single place can wind up in kitchens across America. A contaminated ingredient may be used in many different foods. People in many states may get sick from the contaminated food, making it difficult to spot the outbreak. In collaboration with our federal and state public health partners, we are finding more of these outbreaks because of improvements in disease surveillance and laboratory testing.
  • Food industries can influence and effect change. Foods that cause multistate outbreaks are contaminated before they reach a restaurant or home kitchen. Food industries should make food safety part of their company culture and share proven food safety solutions with others in industry. They should meet or even exceed government food safety regulations and standards to make food safer on the farm, in processing and in distribution. These actions can help protect the public’s health by preventing outbreaks from happening in the first place.
  • Safer foods save lives. When the food industries and public health work together to improve food safety, the impact can be seen throughout the food production chain. Several high-profile multistate E. coli O157 outbreaks in ground beef from 2000-2002 led to industry and regulatory changes. These sharply reduced E. coli O157 in ground beef and the incidence of human infections dropped in the years that followed.  The incidence of E. coli O157 in 2014 was 29 percent lower than the incidence observed between 1996 and 1998.

Consumers can check for food recalls, learn whether they have a higher risk for foodborne sicknessExternal, and get information on handling and preparing food safely at www.foodsafety.govExternal. They can also consider getting and using a loyalty card where they shop for food. If there is a recall, stores can use the card to notify shoppers.

For more information on multistate outbreaks, visit CDC’s Foodborne Outbreaks website.

For more information on how food industries can promote a culture of food safety in the workplace, visit CDC Foundation’s Business Pulse: Food SafetyExternal.

46% - Almost half of multistate foodborne outbreaks result in product recalls.

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46% - Almost half of multistate foodborne outbreaks result in product recalls.

24 - An average of 24 multistate outbreaks are reported a year, each involving from 2 to 37 states.

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24 - An average of 24 multistate outbreaks are reported a year, each involving from 2 to 37 states.

56% - Multistate outbreaks cause 56% of deaths in all reported foodborne outbreaks.

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56% - Multistate outbreaks cause 56% of deaths in all reported foodborne outbreaks.

Government and food industries need to work together to make food safer.

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Government and food industries need to work together to make food safer.

El gobierno y la industria alimentaria necesitan trabajar conjuntamente para hacer los alimentos más seguros.

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El gobierno y la industria alimentaria necesitan trabajar conjuntamente para hacer los alimentos más seguros.

Contact Information

CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286
media@cdc.gov

Spokespersons

“Food industries play a critical role in working with government to help prevent foodborne disease outbreaks and protect Americans from food poisoning. Industry can help prevent food poisoning by following best practices for growing, processing and shipping foods. And they can help disease detectives solve outbreaks by keeping detailed records to trace foods to their source.”

Christopher R. Braden, MD (CAPT USPHS) – Director, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases, National Center for Emerging Infectious and Zoonotic Diseases

Page last reviewed: November 3, 2015