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Foodborne Illness Trends in the United States

Foodborne Illness Trends

Are foodborne illness outbreaks on the rise?

Whether it's eggs, beef, tomatoes or peanut butter, foodborne illness outbreaks regularly make the news. Are such outbreaks increasing? In the majority of cases, the answer is "no".

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collects data on the foodborne illnesses throughout the United States and publishes a yearly report. The report focuses on five major foodborne pathogens: Campylobacter, E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria and Vibrio.

Campylobacter and Salmonella together make up the majority of foodborne illnesses in the United States. They are both bacteria and they can be found on foods of all different origins such as meat, eggs, produce and even more processed foods such as peanut butter. Campylobacter infections have steadily declined since 1996 and Salmonella infections have slighly declined but mostly remained steady.

E. coli infections are often associated with contaminated beef products, but most infections in recent years have resulted from contaminated produce. Regardless of the source, the number of E. coli infections in the United States has also steadily declined.

Listeria is a foodborne pathogen associated with processed foods. Targeted intervention strategies in food processing plants have dramatically reduces the number of Listeria infections in the United States.

Vibrio is most often associated with fish and shellfish and infections caused by this organism have increased in past years.

It's important to note that foodborne pathogen detection methods have greatly improved over the years. As such, some of foodborne illness outbreaks that are detected today may not have been detected ten or twenty years ago.

That being said, one foodborne illness is too many and a lot of effort goes into developing and implementing strategies to reduce contamination of food. Below are several links to more information on foodborne illness trends in the United States. As always, if you have any questions, please do do not hesitate to contact us.

Foodborne Illness Trends from 1996-2008 (CDC)

Foodborne Pathogen Factsheets (USDA)

Gateway to Food Safety Information (foodsafety.gov)

Paul Ebner, PhD
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Animal Sciences

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