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Foodborne illness in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

Foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning, occurs when contaminated or spoiled food is consumed. Most foodborne illness is caused by bacteria and viruses, however parasites and chemicals can also contaminate food. Foodborne illness is common in all parts of the world and usually happens suddenly, but lasts a short time, with most people recovering without seeking treatment. Although symptoms vary depending on the cause, the most common symptoms include diarrhea, stomach pain or cramps, vomiting, and fever. Between 2018 and 2019, U.S. adults rated foodborne illness from bacteria as the most important food safety issue of today.

Foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States

In 2018, there were an estimated 1,052 foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States. In 2017, California was the state with the highest number of foodborne disease outbreaks followed by Ohio and Washington. Most foodborne illness can be avoided through proper cooking, storing, preparation, and washing of hands, food, and cooking utensils. Nevertheless, some foods are more common in foodborne illness cases than others. In 2017, turkey, caused the highest percentage of foodborne illness cases, followed by fruits and chicken. The location where the food was prepared also affects the likelihood of foodborne illness, with sit-down dining and catering or banquet facilities accounting for the highest shares of illness cases.


The most common type of foodborne illness in the United States in 2017 was the norovirus, with over 4,000 such incidences. However, Salmonella caused the highest number of foodborne disease hospitalizations that year. As of 2018, the United States had a rate of 16.7 Salmonella cases per 100,000 population, with rates highest in the states of Mississippi, South Dakota, and South Carolina. At that time, the most common food categories attributed to Salmonella illnesses were chicken and seeded vegetables. Although most foodborne illness is not deadly, deaths from such incidences do occur, especially among those most susceptible to foodborne illness, including infants, children, and the elderly.


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