U.S. Department of Agriculture
Food Safety and Inspection Service
Washington, DC 20250
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been directed by Congress to provide an annual report on the incidence of foodborne illness in the United States. This report is to be submitted to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations.
This report includes a description of the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) and data on the incidence of foodborne illness for calendar year 1997. Data already collected are being analyzed by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the seven surveillance sites.
Questions about this report or about FSIS may be directed to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers a comprehensive system of inspection laws to ensure that meat, poultry, and egg products moving in interstate and foreign commerce for use as human food are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled.
Over the past decade, foodborne illnesses caused by bacterial contamination have heightened concern about the safety of food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified bacterial pathogens as the most common cause of foodborne illnesses because they can be easily transmitted and multiply rapidly in food, thus making them difficult to control. CDC has targeted seven bacterial foodborne pathogens (Campylobacter, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia) as those of greatest concern to public health. Government economists have estimated that foodborne illnesses cost billions of dollars each year in lost productivity and medical care. However, an accurate picture of both the number and causes of foodborne illnesses in the United States is unknown.
In July 1995, as part of the federal government's campaign to improve the safety of the nation's food supply, FSIS began a collaborative project with CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, known originally as the Sentinel Site Study and more recently as the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network or FoodNet, to collect more precise information on the incidence of foodborne disease in the United States. This project includes direct working links with state and local health departments at seven selected sites nationwide as a means of obtaining the most complete and current data about foodborne illness possible. This study, which is expected to continue for several years, will provide much-needed baseline data regarding the incidence of foodborne illness in the United States which is attributable to the consumption of meat, poultry, and other food products.
Bacterial foodborne diseases are currently reported to local and state health departments and CDC through passive surveillance systems. As with all passive systems, cases are frequently under-reported. In fact, only 1% to 5% of foodborne disease cases are believed to be reported to CDC through passive surveillance systems.
In July 1994, the USDA Pathogen Reduction Task Force recommended that FSIS work with CDC on research and surveillance activities that will better characterize risks for foodborne pathogens. This recommendation echoed a National Academy of Sciences recommendation for more community-based surveillance of foodborne disease. To improve data on the incidence and causes of foodborne illness, FDA, FSIS and CDC have established seven sites to study the epidemiologic association between sporadic cases of foodborne illness and the preparation and consumption of meat, poultry, and egg products. The seven selected sites are Northern California, Oregon, Minnesota, Connecticut, and counties in northern Georgia, eastern Maryland, and western New York.
The major objectives of FoodNet are to:
Scope and Duration of Study
FoodNet is a comprehensive effort to track major pathogens that cause sporadic foodborne illness, and to explore what associations may exist between cases and the types of food products consumed.
For the project to be most successful, data must be collected over a number of years in order to chart trends and evaluate the effectiveness of control strategies. FoodNet will also be used as a national laboratory for surveillance strategies which will be useful in all states to more precisely determine the extent and causes of foodborne illness.
Components of FoodNet
Plan for 1998:
Counties in New York (Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Wayne, and Yates) and Maryland (Ann Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard, and Baltimore City) will join FoodNet as fully participating sites. An invitation will be presented to all remaining state public health departments in the United States to be considered as the eighth site. Selection of this eighth site will be made in the fall of 1998, and participation will begin in 1999.
Plan for 1999:
The eighth site will begin to participate in FoodNet. Case-control studies for additional pathogens such as Listeria and Cryptosporidium will begin. Additional studies for the Physician survey and Laboratory survey will be performed to validate collected data. The Laboratory survey will be repeated. The FoodNet population under surveillance will increase to 24,979,368 with the addition of statewide surveillance in Georgia and the Albany, NY metropolitan area. The addition of the eighth site will increase the population under surveillance as well.
The following information represents findings from the second year of data collection. It is important to note, however, that the tables and charts that follow are based solely on the number of laboratory-confirmed actual cases in the sites.
Population in sites (based on 1996 Census data):
The total United States population is 265,189,612.
These population totals are based on 1996 Census data. Connecticut includes the addition of Fairfield county. Georgia includes the addition of 12 counties.
There were 8,031 laboratory-confirmed diarrheal cases in 1997 that were attributable to the seven targeted bacterial pathogens (i.e., Campylobacter, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia). This represents an increase of 709 cases (9.6%) over the 7,322 final case figure for 1996. However, the population figure also increased by 1,645,208 (11%). So, a comparison of cases for 1996 and 1997 shows that the rate of cases per 100,000 persons changed from 51.3 to 50.4. (Table 3)
For the second year, Campylobacter is the most frequently isolated foodborne bacterium (49.4%); Salmonella is second (27.4%); Shigella is third (15.7%); E. coli O157:H7 is fourth (4.2%); Yersinia is fifth (1.7%); Listeria is sixth (1%); Vibrio is last (0.6%).
|[FSIS Start Page] [USDA Start Page] [CDC's FoodNet Page]|
Click here for additional information.
Click here to learn more about the Office of Public Health and Science.
Last Updated On 04/21/1998.