Foodborne illness – also known as foodborne disease or food poisoning – is any disease that enters the body through eating or handling food.  There are more than 250 different foodborne diseases, and they can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or harmful toxins and chemicals that have contaminated food.  Every person is at risk of foodborne illness.


Foodborne illness is a serious public health problem.  Globally, diarrheal diseases sicken an estimated two billion people annually, with many of the illnesses attributed to contaminated food and/or water.  In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that foodborne illness sickens  1 in 6 (or 48 million people)  each year.  Of these, an estimated 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.  Many will develop secondary, long-term health outcomes such as irritable bowel syndrome, reactive arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and neurological dysfunction.


Foodborne illness is a common and costly problem, estimated to cost $77.7 billion annually in medical expenses and lost productivity.  This does not include the costs associated with long-term health outcomes, which can be substantial.  If the costs to industry and government agencies were also included, the cost would be significantly higher.


There is a lot that can be done to prevent foodborne illness.  In fact, CDC identified reducing foodborne illnesses as a winnable battle.  With additional effort and support for evidence-based, cost-effective strategies, we can prevent foodborne illness and improve public health.


For more information, please visit www.cdc.gov/foodsafety.