The Extent of Foodborne Illness in America
According to the best available estimates
by public health and food safety experts,
millions of illnesses and thousands
each year in this country can be traced
contaminated food. The following describes
the scope of the problem:
- The General Accounting Office (GAO), in a
May 1996 report, stated that there are between
6.5 million and 81 million cases of foodborne
illness a year. In 1994, CAST estimated that
6.5 million to 33 million cases of foodborne
illness occur in the U.S. every year. The
wide range in cases of foodborne illness
is due to the uncertainty about the number
that go unreported.
- The National Center for Health Statistics
estimates the number of deaths per year from
foodborne illness to be 9,100.
- While the likelihood of serious complications
is unknown, the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) estimates that about 2 to 3 percent
of all foodborne illness cases lead to secondary
long-term illnesses. For example, E. coli
O157:H7 can cause kidney failure in young
children and infants; Salmonella can lead
to reactive arthritis and serious infections;
Listeria can cause meningitis and stillbirths;
and Campylobacter may be the most common
precipitating factor for Guillain-Barre syndrome.
- Since 1982, E. coli O157:H7 has emerged as
an important cause of foodborne illness.
Because many laboratories do not routinely
test for it, the actual number of illnesses
caused by E. coli O157:H7 is unknown, but
CDC estimates this pathogen causes approximately
21,000 illnesses annually.
- CDC estimates that between 2 and 4 million
illnesses occur each year in the U.S. from
the more than 2,000 strains of Salmonella.
- According to CDC, Campylobacter is the most
common bacterial cause of diarrhea in the
U.S., resulting in 1 to 6 million illnesses
If you have questions or concerns about food
- Each year, an estimated 1,850 persons become
seriously ill from Listeria monocytogenes.
The disease primarily affects pregnant women,
newborns and adults with weakened immune
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat and Poultry Hotline at (800) 535-4555
or (202) 720-3333 (Washington, DC area).
The TTY number for the hearing impaired
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Information Line at (888) SAFE FOOD.
Reprinted with permission from
The Fight BAC!™ Web site at: www.fightbac.org