U.S. flag An official website of the United States government
  1. Home
  2. Food
  3. Recalls, Outbreaks & Emergencies
  4. Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness
  5. Foodborne Pathogens
  1. Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness

Foodborne Pathogens

Foodborne illness (commonly known as food poisoning) is often caused by consuming food contaminated by bacteria and/or their toxins, parasites, viruses, chemicals, or other agents. 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 contaminated food, which results in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

Foodborne illness occurs when people eat or drink food or beverages contaminated with pathogens, chemicals, or toxins. There are several factors that can contribute to the symptoms and severity of food poisoning, including a weakened immune system and age. When the FDA learns of an outbreak, the agency’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network works closely with state and local partners and the Centers for Disease Control to identify the cause and prevent additional illnesses.

When necessary, the FDA works with food producers to facilitate voluntary recalls of potentially contaminated products; the agency also has mandatory recall authorities under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

The Bad Bug Book 2nd Edition, released in 2012, provides current information about the major known agents that cause foodborne illness.