Outbreak Investigations: Response
During investigations, FSIS may respond by posting recalls of FSIS-regulated products linked to illness or by issuing public health alerts. Following outbreak investigations, FSIS conducts after-action reviews to identify, share, and apply lessons learned with public health, industry partners, and consumers to help prevent future illness and improve future outbreak response.
The Outcomes & References column includes links to recall notices, public health alerts, and after-action review reports, as well as CDC outbreak notices for selected multistate foodborne outbreaks, which provide additional information. For a list of all foodborne outbreaks reported to CDC since 1998, please use the CDC National Outbreak Reporting System Dashboard.
What should I do if I think food made me sick?
If you think you have a foodborne illness, see a healthcare provider for treatment. Your healthcare provider can test you, and if the tests show you have a foodborne illness that needs to be reported to the state or local public health officials, your health care provider will take care of it. If you suspect a meat, poultry, or egg product made you sick, see the Report a Problem with Food page for information on how to notify FSIS.
Why is FSIS posting this information?
FSIS is sharing information on active foodborne illness outbreak investigations to increase transparency about the work that FSIS does to investigate and respond to foodborne outbreaks. In an effort to be more transparent and provide timely updates of FSIS’ outbreak investigation actions to better protect consumers, FSIS may publish outbreak data prior to a specific product being identified as the source of an outbreak.
How often will FSIS be updating this information?
FSIS will update this table at least weekly.
Why doesn’t every outbreak on the table include a corresponding FSIS action (e.g., recall, public health alert, or after-action report)?
Unfortunately, public health officials do not solve every outbreak because evidence needed to identify the source of illness is often difficult to obtain. The outbreak may end before enough information is gathered to identify the source and take further action, or the source may be identified after the outbreak ends and the risk to the public is over. In addition, an outbreak investigation may end up implicating a product not regulated by FSIS, even if meat and poultry was initially suspected as the source.
Does this table include all the foodborne outbreaks that occur in the United States?
No, the outbreaks in this table do not account for all foodborne outbreaks. FSIS routinely monitors clusters of illnesses to determine if FSIS-regulated products may be the source of illnesses. FSIS will post an outbreak investigation to this table when there is compelling evidence that an FSIS-regulated product is the source. When an investigated product is listed as suspected, this does not mean other foods were ruled out as the source of the outbreak.
Does this table include all outbreaks investigated by FSIS?
No. Before November 2020, this table only included closed outbreaks in which FSIS responded by posting a recall of FSIS-regulated product linked to illness, a public health alert, and/or an after-action review report. Since then, FSIS has been including active investigations when there is compelling evidence (i.e., epidemiologic, product sampling, and traceback) that an FSIS-regulated product is a confirmed or suspected source of illness. Even if evidence suggests an outbreak is not associated with an FSIS-regulated product or there is limited information about what products might be associated with illnesses, FSIS may still provide technical assistance, investigative support, and guidance to public health officials or other food safety agencies.
Are CDC and FDA sharing information with the public about the outbreaks they investigate?
Why doesn’t the number of open outbreaks in this table align with the number of outbreaks in the CDC or FDA outbreak table?
FSIS and FDA regulate different products. FSIS only includes outbreaks that FSIS is investigating, which are those that may be associated with meat, poultry, and egg products. An outbreak may be included in both the FSIS and FDA outbreak tables if products regulated by both agencies are suspected sources.
Outbreak investigations in which reported illnesses are confined to one state may appear on FSIS’ table, but not CDC’s. This is because CDC generally works only on multistate investigations.
What pathogens are involved in FSIS outbreak investigations?
The primary pathogens involved in FSIS outbreak investigations are Salmonella, Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, or Campylobacter. FSIS also investigates foodborne illnesses caused by other pathogens and other hazards, if the illness is potentially associated with FSIS-regulated products.
What is the FSIS process to investigate foodborne illnesses?
If FSIS suspects that an FSIS-regulated product is associated with foodborne illness, FSIS investigates the outbreak per FSIS Directive 8080.3, Foodborne Illness Investigations. A foodborne outbreak occurs when two or more persons experience a similar illness after ingestion of a common food. When there is compelling evidence that reports foodborne illnesses are possibly associated with FSIS-regulated products, FSIS collaborates and coordinates investigative activities with public health partners.
What type of information does FSIS need to take action?
FSIS and partners collect and evaluate epidemiologic, laboratory, environmental assessment, and traceback information related to a potential food source to determine if there is a link between an FSIS-regulated product and human illnesses. Additional information is located on the FSIS Information Helpful to FSIS During Foodborne Illness Investigations web page.
What if outbreaks do not appear to be associated with FSIS-regulated products?
FSIS continuously works with public health partners to monitor outbreaks and available epidemiologic, laboratory, environmental assessment, and traceback information to determine if FSIS-regulated products may be causing human illnesses. Even if evidence suggests an outbreak is not associated with an FSIS-regulated product or there is limited information about what products might be associated with illnesses, FSIS may still provide technical assistance, investigative support, and guidance to public health officials or other food safety agencies.
What if I want to know more about a specific outbreak investigation?
Please submit a FOIA request (FOIA request).
Public health agencies should notify FSIS as soon as possible about illness outbreaks potentially associated with FSIS-regulated products (including meat, poultry, and egg products) at FoodborneDiseaseReports@usda.gov.
If you think you are ill, see a physician. You can report a problem with FSIS-regulated products to the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or report the complaint online. For more information visit: Report a Problem with Food.