Foodborne illness (commonly known as food poisoning) is often caused by consuming food contaminated by bacteria and while the American food supply is among the safest in the world, the Federal government estimates that there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness each year. This estimate is equivalent to 1 in 6 Americans becoming sick from consuming food contaminated with bacteria, which result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
Foodborne illness occurs when contaminated food is consumed, which causes an infection resulting in illness. There are several factors that contribute to the symptoms and severity of food poisoning, including a weakened immune system and age.
E. coli (Escherichia coli)
Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. The types of E. coli that can cause illness can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.
Salmonella (Salmonella Enteritidis)
Salmonella spp. can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy people infected with Salmonella spp. often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella spp. can result in the organism getting into the blood stream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis.
Direct-human-contact animal foods contaminated with Salmonella spp. pose a significant health risk to humans who have direct contact with the foods at homes, petting zoos, agricultural fairs, or similar venues.
Listeria (Listeria monocytogenes or L. Monocytogenes)
Listeria is a harmful bacterium that can be found in refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods (meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy - unpasteurized milk and milk products or foods made with unpasteurized milk), and produce harvested from soil contaminated with L. monocytogenes.
Many animals can carry this bacterium without appearing ill, which means that it can be found in foods made from animals. L. monocytogenes is unusual because it can grow at refrigerator temperatures where most other foodborne bacteria do not. When eaten, it may cause listeriosis, an illness to which pregnant women and their unborn children are very susceptible.
- Education Resource Library - offers educational materials related to food safety, nutrition and cosmetics
- Foodborne Illnesses: What You Need to Know
- Safe Food Handling: What You Need to Know
- Refrigeration & Safe Handling of Food
- Outbreak Investigations
- Food Allergens
- Fight BAC!® Campaigns
- E. coli
- Bad Bug Book - provides current information about the major known agents that cause foodborne illness
- FDA Food Code - A model that assists food control jurisdictions at all levels of government by providing them with a scientifically sound technical and legal basis for regulating the retail and food service segment of the industry (restaurants and grocery stores and institutions such as nursing homes)
- Healthy People Initiative - Healthy People provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans
- Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) Webinar- Improving the Categories Used to Classify Foods Implicated in Outbreaks
- FSMA Final Rules for Preventive Controls
- Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) Program - Whole genome sequencing reveals the complete DNA make-up of an organism, enabling us to better understand variations both within and between species. This in turn allows us to differentiate between organisms with a precision that other technologies do not allow. FDA is using this technology to perform basic foodborne pathogen identification during foodborne illness outbreaks and applying it in novel ways that have the potential to help reduce foodborne illnesses and deaths over the long term both in the U.S and abroad.
- Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for the 21st Century - Food Processing
- Microbiological Methods & Bacteriological Analytical Manual (BAM)
- Pesticide Analytical Manual (PAM)
- Fight BAC!® Campaigns
- E. coli