Making Food Safer to Eat
Each year, about 1 in 6 people in the U.S. gets sick from eating contaminated food. The 1,000 or more reported outbreaks that happen each year reveal familiar culprits – Salmonella and other common germs. In recent years, large, multistate foodborne outbreaks have become more common because an extensive network of foodborne illness surveillance systems identifies outbreaks and tracks trends that would previously have been missed. Also, an increasingly centralized food supply means that food contaminated during production can be rapidly shipped to many states, causing widespread outbreaks.
CDC is the lead coordinator among public health partners in states to detect multistate outbreaks, to define the size and extent, to identify the source, and to point the way to prevention once a contaminated food source has been identified. Public health action to control the outbreak then can be taken by partners responsible for food safety from the farm to our tables. Preventing foodborne disease is possible with additional effort and support for evidence-based, cost effective strategies that we can put in place now. These strategies can have significant impact on our nation’s health.
Investigating Food-Borne Outbreaks
On display are the steps typically used to investigate a food-borne outbreak, shown using a multi-state outbreak of Listeria in 2011. From detecting the outbreak to gathering and analyzing the data, the outbreak investigation highlights the importance of public health disciplines working together to solve an outbreak.
PulseNet is a national laboratory network used to detect foodborne outbreaks. The program initially used laboratory tests such as pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) but has transitioned to whole genome sequencing. Scientists at state or local public health departments process samples from local food-borne illness cases and enter the results into the electronic PulseNet database. Database managers at CDC can detect related cases and can notify food-borne epidemiologists to begin an investigation.
Take a closer look:
- Learn the four steps to food safety to prevent food poisoning at home and about CDC’s role in food safety.
- Take a deep dive into foodborne germs and illnesses and challenges that CDC faces in food safety.
- Learn how CDC handles multistate foodborne outbreak investigations.
- View CDC food safety infographics and animations/videos.
- Explore CDC’s foodborne diseases active surveillance network, FoodNet.
- Learn everything you need to know about Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria.
- How does whole genome sequencing, or WGS, work? Learn more in this infographicpdf icon. Then, explore whole genome sequencing as a foodborne illness response tool with CDC’s initiative, PulseNet Internationalpdf icon.
- Take a look at Enteric Diseases Laboratory Branch scientists in action: a public health scientist determining the “DNA fingerprint” of a specific bacterium and bioinformatician developing computer codes to analyze foodborne outbreak data.
From the source:
- Learn how CDC actively works to prevent foodborne disease outbreaks or solve them as they occur.
- View a snapshot of food markets in the 16th century with this EID story, featuring artwork by Pieter Cornelisz van Rijck.
Then and now:
- Check out this infographic covering the history of PulseNetpdf icon.
- Read about agriculture-related innovation and the evolution of foodborne diseases in this Emerging Infectious Diseases cover story.
- Read MMWR reports on foodborne illness and outbreak investigations of the past and present.
- Explore interactive graphs and charts of foodborne outbreaks with CDC’s FoodNet Fast online data tool.
- Read reports from Salmonella outbreak investigations from 2006 to present day.
Give it a try:
- How much do you know about foodborne diseases? Explore prevention tips, key facts, and more with CDC’s Disease of the Week foodborne diseases feature, then try your hand at a short quiz.
- Learn more about the importance of keeping food safe from microorganisms such as Salmonella and E. coli with CDCM’s hands-on Public Health Academy STEM Lesson – Keeping Food Healthy.