243418 Known Food Safety Risks in the United States

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cindy Roberts, MS , Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, DC
Caroline Smith DeWaal, JD , Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, DC

Some foods are riskier than others, accounting for more cases of foodborne illness. While meat products are often thought most likely to cause foodborne illness, of the top ten riskiest foods, four are produce products and four are meat and meat products, with eggs and dairy products rounding out the list.


CSPI maintains a foodborne illness outbreak database, categorized by food vehicle. CSPI's database is compiled from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, but includes only “solved” outbreaks, those in which both the food vehicle and pathogen are identified. Researchers analyzed the data to determine which foods caused the most foodborne illnesses.


The CSPI database contains 4,600 outbreaks between 1999-2008, accounting for 116,426 cases of foodborne illnesses. Lettuce and greens-based salads caused the most illnesses, with 10,285 cases, followed by beef and beef dishes (9,986), chicken and chicken dishes (7,567), turkey (5,413), pork and pork dishes (4,757), eggs and egg dishes (3,084), tomatoes (3,081), dairy products (2,968), melon (1,855) and potato salad (1,772). The pathogens most implicated in outbreaks in these foods were Norovirus, Salmonella ssp., Clostridium perfringens, E. coli Campylobacter, and Staphylococcus aureus.


Knowledge of which foods are causing illness allows industry and regulatory agencies to prioritize control efforts on those foods which cause the most illnesses. Educators can focus consumer's limited time and attention on the problems most likely to occur. Consumer knowledge of which foods are the riskiest can alert them to foods requiring special handling.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1) Compare the safety of different food categories. 2) Assess the effect food handling processes have on food safety. 3) Determine which foods need special handling.

Keywords: Food Safety, Risk Factors

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I am a food safety researcher at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and I oversee the outbreak data analysis.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.