The September 9, 2011 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report analyzes the CDC’s surveillance of foodborne disease outbreaks in 2008.  Foodborne agents cause an estimated 48 million illnesses annually in the United States, including 9.4 million illnesses from known pathogens. CDC collects data on foodborne disease outbreaks submitted from all states and territories through the Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System. During 2008, the most recent year for which data are finalized, 1,034 foodborne disease outbreaks were reported, which resulted in 23,152 cases of illness, 1,276 hospitalizations, and 22 deaths.

Among the 479 outbreaks with a laboratory-confirmed single etiologic agent reported, norovirus was the most common, accounting for 49% of outbreaks and 46% of illnesses. Salmonella was the second most common, accounting for 23% of outbreaks and 31% of illnesses. Among the 218 outbreaks attributed to a food vehicle with ingredients from only one of 17 defined food commodities (3), the top commodities to which outbreaks were attributed were poultry (15%), beef (14%), and finfish (14%), whereas the top commodities to which outbreak-related illnesses were attributed were fruits and nuts (24%), vine-stalk vegetables (23%), and beef (13%).

Outbreak surveillance provides insights into the agents that cause foodborne illness, types of implicated foods, and settings where transmission occurs. Public health, regulatory, and food industry professionals can use this information to target prevention efforts against pathogens and foods that cause the most foodborne disease outbreaks.

Read the full report here.