Fast Facts about PulseNet

PulseNet uses DNA fingerprinting of the bacteria that are making people sick to detect outbreaks. PulseNet has detected thousands of local and multi-state outbreaks since it began in 1996. As a result of PulseNet, we have been able to prevent foodborne outbreaks and continuously improve our food safety systems – changes that might not otherwise have occurred. PulseNet International performs a similar role for foodborne illnesses that occur around the world.

Quick Stats
  • PulseNet USA is made up of 83 federal, regional, state, and local laboratories divided into seven regions. There is at least one PulseNet laboratory in every state.
  • By the end of 2016, PulseNet expects to have more than 1 million DNA fingerprints in the various national databases.
    • The largest national database is Salmonella, which contained more than 500,000 entries as of 2015.
  • In 2015, participating laboratories analyzed and reported more than 89,000 patterns to the PulseNet national databases.
    • More than 10,000 entries were from non-human sources, such as food, animals, or the environment. 
  • Each year in the United States, around 1,500 clusters of disease are identified by state and local health agencies, and approximately 30 multistate or national outbreaks are identified.
    • On average, PulseNet Central at CDC follows 280 clusters of foodborne disease each year.


  • More than 1 billion pounds of contaminated food have been recalled—saving lives, time, and money—thanks to PulseNet!
  • Outbreak investigations triggered by PulseNet have led to safer production practices for the following foods:
    • Beef
    • Eggs
    • Flour
    • Leafy greens
    • Cantaloupe
    • Other vegetables
    • Peanut products
    • Poultry
    • Ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook foods
    • Spices
    • Sprouts
    • Tree nuts

Pathogens Covered

PulseNet detects subtypes of:

E. coli  O157 and other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli
E. coli O157*
Listeria monocytogenes
Vibrio cholerae
<em>Vibrio parahaemolyticus</em>
Vibrio parahaemolyticus

* and other Shiga toxin-producing E.coli

*Clostridium botulinum is considered a select agent and, as such, follows different handling procedures than other pathogens covered by PulseNet.