The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has analyzed data from more than a decade of foodborne disease outbreaks to develop an unprecedented baseline of on how many illnesses can be attributed to each food category.
The research focuses on known causes of illness and uses data from nearly 4600 outbreaks to estimate the number of illnesses that can be attributed to each of 17 food categories. It also provides a foundation for priority setting for food safety interventions, policy development, research, and analyses for CDC and its regulatory partners, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS).
The findings, published this week in the Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal, build on 2011 estimates indicating approximately 48 million people get sick in the U.S. each year from foodborne pathogens. The information provides a historical baseline of estimates to be further refined over time with more data and improved methods.
The research attributes 46% of illnesses to produce and found that more deaths were attributed to poultry than to any other commodity. To the extent that the estimates reflect the commodities causing all foodborne illness, they indicate that efforts are particularly needed to prevent contamination of produce and poultry.
The CDC is now looking at methods to incorporate data from other sources to improve attribution estimates for various food types and pathogens.