Throughout 2009 and 2010, nearly 30,000 people throughout the United States suffered from food poisoning illnesses caused by more than 1,500 different outbreaks, according to new government data.
According to a report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on January 25, researchers identified 29,444 illnesses, 1,184 hospitalizations and at least 23 deaths that were linked to 675 outbreaks in 2009 and 852 in 2010.
The number of food poisoning outbreaks is actually down 32% when compared to the mean average of the five preceding years.
CDC researchers found that the most common single foodborne pathogen was norovirus, followed by salmonella. The food that caused the most illnesses in 2009 and 2010 were eggs, which is likely partially due to a massive egg recall issued in August of 2010.
There were 790 outbreaks where a laboratory confirmed that the cause was a single etiologic agent, and 42% of those were caused by norovirus.
Salmonella, the second most common cause of food poisoning incidents during those years, accounted for 30% of those cases. However, salmonella caused the most hospitalizations. Specifically, the CDC found that the food and pathogen combination linked to the most hospitalizations was salmonella in vine-stalk vegetables.
Other than eggs, the next most common causes of food poisoning illnesses were beef and poultry.
The number of egg-related food poisoning cases was likely inflated due to a salmonella outbreak linked to eggs from two egg farms in August 2010. Quality Egg LLC and the Wright County Egg facility recalled more than half a billion eggs nationwide. The CDC estimated that at least 1,519 people fell ill from salmonella poisoning from eggs, but the number was likely much higher since the most illnesses are never reported.
Despite the large number of outbreaks and illnesses, only 43 food poisoning outbreaks in 2009 and 2010 actually led to food product recalls. In the 766 outbreaks that could be tracked back to a known single setting where the food was eaten, 48% were tracked back to food served in a restaurant or deli, compared to only 21% of outbreaks linked to food consumed at home.