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Foodborne Diseases

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Photo of four peppers.
Produce items on a clean kitchen countertop. Credit: CDC.

Understanding Foodborne Diseases

Infectious diseases spread through food or beverages are a common, distressing, and sometimes life-threatening problem for millions of people in the United States and around the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year in the United States, 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.

Foodborne disease is extremely costly. Health experts estimate that the yearly cost of all foodborne diseases in this country is 5 to 6 billion dollars in direct medical expenses and lost productivity.

There are more than 250 known foodborne diseases. They can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Natural and manufactured chemicals in food products also can make people sick. Some diseases are caused by toxins (poisons) from the disease-causing microbe (germ), others by the human body’s reactions to the microbe itself. To better understand the epidemiology (study of disease origin and spread) of foodborne diseases in the United States, 10 states across the country are collecting annual data on the occurrence of new cases of the most common causes of bacterial and parasitic infections through the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, a CDC-sponsored program known as FoodNet.

Types of Foodborne Diseases

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Last Updated June 25, 2014