29+ Interesting Foodborne Illness Statistics

Foodborne illness stats reveal 48 million yearly cases in the US, with California topping outbreaks; norovirus and listeria are major concerns.

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It’s scary to think about how the food you eat every single day could make you sick and how no matter where you go in the world, there are always cases of foodborne illnesses; some places being more prominent than others.

Unfortunately, we aren’t going to make you feel any better with this list of foodborne illness statistics, but we can say, at the very least, that they’re interesting to know. 

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Foodborne Illness Statistic Highlights

  • 48 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses a year
  • California was the state with the highest number of foodborne illness outbreaks (107 reports) in 2017 
  • Roughly 30 million years of human life is lost a year around the globe from foodborne illness 
  • The most deadly foodborne outbreak in recent history was caused by listeria-infected cantaloupes – 147 ill and 33 deaths
  • A 2015 NARMS test found that 24% of retail-bought chicken had traces of the campylobacter pathogen
  • In February earlier this year (2023), there was an outbreak of E. Coli from an unknown source
  • The worst documented outbreak of listeriosis occurred in 2017 and killed over 200 victims
  • In the United States, 128,000 people are hospitalized for foodborne diseases, and about 3,000 die
  • Listeria has a high mortality rate of 20% – 30%
  • The number 1 cause of foodborne illnesses in the US is poor hygiene

Interesting Foodborne Illness Statistics

Let’s look at some other interesting foodborne illness statistics below. 

48 million People Get Sick From Foodborne Illnesses a Year

Whether you expected it or not, the CDC estimates that about 48 million people in the United States get sick from foodborne illnesses a year. This is known as the “foodborne illness burden” and accounts for most ailments, though the actual number is likely higher due to unreported/undocumented cases.

Roughly 420,000 People Die Worldwide From Foodborne Related Illnesses 

This stat comes to us from the NCBI. Of all the diseases, norovirus and campylobacter seem to be the most prominent as they account for a majority of the infected cases. On the other hand, listeria monocytogenes (most frequently referred to as listeria) is the most deadly.

Norovirus Causes About 900 Deaths in the US a Year, Most of Them 65 or Older

As with most diseases, the people most at risk for norovirus are the elderly, as they account for most of America’s 900 norovirus-related deaths. Despite this, norovirus isn’t the most deadly foodborne illness out there since there are well over 2 million cases of outpatient clinic visits.

Listeria Has a Scarily High Mortality Rate of 20% – 30%

While any percentage under 50 may seem low, we assure you that even at the lowest possible estimation (20% mortality rate), 1 one out of every five people who contract listeria will die from the disease. 

California Was the State with the Highest Number of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks (107 reports) in 2017

This might seem normal, considering California has the highest population, but the runner-up, Ohio, only had 69 cases. Even Texas, which boasts the second-highest population in the states, had 27 reports.

Europe Hosts More Campylobacter and Salmonella-related Cases than any Other Continent

While campylobacter and salmonella are two of the most prominent foodborne illnesses, they are most common in European countries. The third place medal belongs to norovirus, which is the most common foodborne illness overall.

The CDC Estimates that 1 in Every Six People Gets Sick Annually From Foodborne Illnesses

This implies that out of America’s population of 330 million, about 48 million people will get sick from foodborne diseases. Most of these cases are harmless and most prominent in young children and older adults.

Two Separate Studies in Two Different Countries Determined that Chickens Cause over 50% of Their Populations’ Foodborne Illnesses 

A 2007 study in America and a 2011 study in Canada came up with similar values when they were allocating the causes of foodborne illnesses. Both studies found that poultry accounted for about 35% of conditions while eggs caused 21%.

Roughly 30 Million Years of Human Life Is Lost a Year Around the Globe from Foodborne Illness

This essentially equates to all the time people who were otherwise healthy would have lived if they hadn’t succumbed to a foodborne illness

There Are 31 Known Pathogens that Cause Foodborne Illness

With all the diseases and viruses in the world, you’re probably surprised that this number isn’t much higher. Well, scientists have determined that all documented cases of foodborne illness are only caused by 31 different pathogens.

Of the 31 Foodborne Illness-causing Pathogens, 58% Were Caused by Norovirus

Considering how many foodborne pathogens there are, you’d think there would be a more even spread of illnesses, but norovirus causes almost 60% of all cases in America. For reference, salmonella only causes 11% of these cases.

About 30% of Foodborne Illness-related Deaths Are Children Under 5

Despite humanity’s best efforts to combat disease and illness, they often fall short when it comes to children and the elderly. As tragic as it is, the immune system of these groups just isn’t strong enough to combat deadly diseases, and they aren’t equipped to undertake harsh medicinal treatment.

The Number 1 Cause of Foodborne Illnesses in the US Is Poor Hygiene 

More often than not, it’s not the supplier’s fault that food goes bad. In reality, it’s the people who prepare the food with unwashed hands and improper conditions who are the biggest culprits.

Raw Flour Is One of the Most Significant Contaminants of Foodborne Pathogens

Raw meat, shellfish, fruits, and veggies are unsurprisingly big culprits of pathogen carriers, but did you know that consuming raw flour is also a risk factor? This is because flour typically isn’t treated to be disease free and thus must be cooked to eliminate any potential illnesses.

In 2018, the Estimated Cost of Foodborne Illnesses Was $17,571,792,712 

This includes expenses such as medical care associated with treating these diseases, lost wages, and research on various pathogens.

The Disease That Persists the Longest Is Hepatitis A, Which Lasts Anywhere From 15 days to 2 Months 

If there’s one disease you don’t want in the long run, it’s hepatitis A. On average, it runs its course over 28 days, but it can last up to 50 days or more if you’re unlucky. 

In the United States, 128,000 People Are Hospitalized for Foodborne Diseases, and About 3,000 Die 

If you’ve been keeping track of previous statistics, you’ll also know that almost a third of these deaths are caused by norovirus, and most of these instances are in people over 65 and under 5.

The Most Deadly Foodborne Outbreak in Recent History Was Caused by Listeria-infected Cantaloupes – 147 ill and 33 Deaths 

Incidentally, the recent outbreak that caused the most cases was a 2015 shipment of Mexican cucumbers, causing 907 sickness reports but one death (salmonella).

In 2009, a Company Recalled 3,600 Jars of Peanut Butter and Subsequently Went Bankrupt 

In a peanut butter-related outbreak caused by the products of PCA, 3,600 jars of peanuts were recalled by the company. As a result, the business went bankrupt and has since ceased function.

America Saw About 18 New Cases of Salmonella per Every 100,000 People in 2019

Due to the increasing population, a decrease in personal hygiene habits, and unsafe food practices, the number of new salmonella cases seems to be slowly increasing year to year.

The Shortest Average Onset Time After Ingestion Is the Staphylococcal Pathogen, with 6 Hours

Also known as food poisoning, this pathogen typically causes symptoms to arise several hours after ingesting infected food. Luckily, this disease has a fairly quick recovery time of 24 – 48 hours.

A 2015 NARMS Test Found that 24% of Retail-bought Chicken Had Traces of the Campylobacter Pathogen

Campylobacter is most notoriously a diarrheal disease that causes symptoms in about 1.5 million US citizens annually.

As of May 1, 2023, There Is a Foodborne Illness Outbreak of Gold’s Flour 

At the time this article was written, there have been 13 cases in over 12 different states and three documentation of hospitalization. Additionally, there is an active recall for the brand’s flour.

The Four Groups Most at Risk for Foodborne-related Illness Are Pregnant Women, the Elderly, Young Children, and People with Weakened Immune Systems 

Alternatively, the people who are least at risk are young, healthy adults who don’t have any underlying ailments and practice proper hygiene habits.

In February Earlier This Year (2023), There Was an Outbreak of E. Coli From an Unknown Source 

This outbreak has caused 18 cases, 17 of which have had to be hospitalized. While there are no recorded deaths from this outbreak thus far, the source is currently unknown and being monitored by various organizations.

The Worst Documented Outbreak of Listeriosis Occurred in 2017 and Killed Over 200 Victims

This outbreak happened in South Africa and affected over 1000 individuals, at least 200 of which subsequently died. Fortunately, in recent news, the country has declared its victory over the outbreak after roughly five years.

Norovirus Causes Five Times More Documented Cases than Salmonella, but Salmonella Has About 25% More Hospitalization Instances

Despite norovirus causing about 5 million US foodborne illness cases a year and salmonella causing nearly a million, salmonella results in about 19,000 hospitalizations, while norovirus is only 14,000.

Although There Are 31 Pathogens, There Are Over 250 Different Diseases 

Pathogens, viruses, and bacteria all have different strains and complications, resulting in various other diseases. 

From 2017 to 2020, Fruits and Vegetables Were the Most Solved Causes of Foodborne Illnesses

Fruits specifically had the most outbreaks traced back to them (roughly 22), while root vegetables seemed to cause the most problems.

Final Thoughts

So, did any of the entries on our list of foodborne-related illnesses shock you? While it’s not talked about frequently, it’s a much bigger problem than most people realize. Perhaps it’s simply overshadowed by everything else going on in the world.

Nonetheless, we hope we can shine some light on the subject and hopefully give the matter the limelight it deserves.

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