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Health Reports & Data

Food Safety


Improve food safety and reduce foodborne illnesses.


Foodborne illnesses are a burden on public health and contribute significantly to the cost of health care. A foodborne outbreak occurs when 2 or more cases of a similar illness result from eating the same food.1 In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received reports of a total of 1,270 foodborne disease outbreaks, which resulted in 27,634 cases of illness and 11 deaths.2

A foodborne outbreak indicates that something in the food safety system needs to be improved. The food safety system includes food:

  • Production
  • Processing
  • Packing
  • Distribution/Transportation
  • Storage
  • Preparation

Public health scientists investigate outbreaks to control them and to learn how to prevent similar outbreaks in the future. Success is measured in part through the reduction in outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.

Why is Food Safety Important?

Foodborne illness is a preventable and underreported public health problem. It presents a major challenge to both general and at-risk populations. Each year, millions of illnesses in the United States can be attributed to contaminated foods. Children younger than age 4 have the highest incidence of laboratory-confirmed infections from:

  • Campylobacter species
  • Cryptosporidium species
  • Salmonella species
  • Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157
  • Shigella species
  • Yersinia species

People older than age 50 are at greater risk for hospitalizations and death from intestinal pathogens commonly transmitted through foods.3 Safer food promises healthier and longer lives, less costly health care, and a more resilient food industry.

Additional Resources

HP2020’s National Objectives for Food Safety


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Surveillance for foodborne-disease outbreaks: United States, 1988–92. MMWR CDC Surveill Summ. 1996 Oct 25;45(SS-5):1-55.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Surveillance for foodborne disease outbreaks: United States, 2006. MMWR. 2009 Jun 12;58(22):609-15.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preliminary FoodNet data on the incidence of infection with pathogens transmitted commonly through food—10 states, 2009. MMWR. 2010;59(14):418-22.

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