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Stopping Multistate Foodborne Outbreaks

CDC Report: Working Together to Stop Outbreaks and Make Food Safer

Multistate outbreaks cause more than half of all deaths in foodborne disease outbreaks despite accounting for only a tiny fraction (3 percent) of reported outbreaks in the United States, according to a new Vital Signs report released today. Recent outbreaks of foodborne illness linked to tainted cucumbers, ice cream and soft cheeses show the devastating consequences when food is contaminated with dangerous germs before it reaches a restaurant or home kitchen.

Highlights from the report on multistate foodborne outbreaks during 2010-2014 include:

  • An average of 24 multistate outbreaks occurred each year, involving two to 37 states.
  • Salmonella accounted for the most illnesses and hospitalizations and was the cause of the three largest outbreaks, which were traced to eggs, chicken and raw ground tuna.
  • Listeria caused the most deaths, largely due to an outbreak caused by contaminated cantaloupe in 2011 that killed 33 people.
  • Imported foods accounted for 18 of the 120 reported outbreaks. Food imported from Mexico was the leading source in these outbreaks, followed by food imported from Turkey.

Food industries and the government can work together to stop outbreaks and make food safer

The Vital Signs report recommends that local, state, and national health agencies work closely with food industries to understand how their foods are produced and distributed to speed multistate outbreak investigations. These investigations can reveal fixable problems that resulted in food becoming contaminated and lessons learned that can help strengthen food safety.

The report highlights the need for food industries to play a larger role in improving food safety by following best practices for growing, processing, and shipping foods. In addition, food industries can help stop outbreaks and lessen their impact by keeping detailed records to allow faster tracing of foods from source to destination, by using store loyalty cards to help identify what foods made people sick, and by notifying customers of food recalls.

Infographic showing how government and food industries need to work together to prevent foodborne illness, since multistate outbreaks can cause sickness, hospitalization, and death among a large number of people.

About Vital Signs

CDC’s Vital Signs report addresses a single, important public health topic each month. The November edition focuses on multistate outbreaks of foodborne disease. These outbreaks frequently cause serious illness in people. In collaboration with our federal and state public health partners, we are finding more of these outbreaks because of improvements in disease surveillance and testing. To stop outbreaks and make food safer, food industries and government must work together to prevent them.

Visit the Safer Food Saves Lives Vital Signs Web page to find the Vital Signs MMWR article, fact sheet, and other materials.

Save the Date: Vital Signs Town Hall Teleconference

Working together to Stop Multistate Foodborne Outbreaks – November 10, 2015, 2-3 PM EST

Join our three presenters as they share experiences from outbreak investigations and how food safety has been improved when government and food industries work together.  Call-in Number, presentations and biographies will be posted on the Town Hall Teleconference website before the event.


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Posted in: Bacteria/Virus | Events | OutbreaksTagged: Food Safety