General outbreaks of infectious intestinal disease linked with red meat, England and Wales, 1992-1999

Commun Dis Public Health. 2001 Dec;4(4):259-67.


Between 1992 and 1999, 1,426 foodborne general outbreaks of infectious intestinal disease (IID) were reported to the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (CDSC). Sixteen percent were linked with the consumption of red meat. Over 5,000 people were affected, with 186 hospital admissions and nine deaths. Beef (34%) and pig meat (32%) were the most frequently implicated meat types, with lamb implicated in 11% of outbreaks. The organisms most frequently reported were Clostridium perfringens (43.4%) and salmonellas (34.3%). During the summer, outbreaks were mainly of Salmonella spp. and attributed to the consumption of pig meat. In December, outbreaks of C. perfringens linked with beef predominated. Most outbreaks occurred as a result of food cooked on commercial catering premises (46%). The highlight of this surveillance period is a fall in the number of outbreaks linked with foods containing red meat. This corresponds with a steady decline in red meat consumption over the last two decades, as well as a transient though marked decline in the purchase and consumption of red meat in the UK during the BSE crisis in the early to mid 1990s. As cited in the Pennington Report, further reducing the morbidity and mortality from red meat outbreaks means targeting meat production at various points along the food chain from abattoir and butchering, to cooking and holding of cooked food, especially on commercial catering premises.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections / epidemiology*
  • Bacterial Infections / pathology
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Food Microbiology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Intestinal Diseases / microbiology
  • Intestinal Diseases / pathology
  • Meat / microbiology*
  • Meat / virology
  • Population Surveillance
  • Public Health
  • Virus Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Virus Diseases / pathology
  • Wales / epidemiology