Emerging Foodborne Pathogens

Int J Food Microbiol. 2002 Sep 15;78(1-2):31-41. doi: 10.1016/s0168-1605(02)00232-5.


The broad spectrum of foodborne infections has changed dramatically over time, as well-established pathogens have been controlled or eliminated, and new ones have emerged. The burden of foodborne disease remains substantial: one in four Americans is estimated to have a significant foodborne illness each year. The majority of these illnesses are not accounted for by known pathogens, so more must remain to be discovered. Among the known foodborne pathogens, those more recently identified predominate, suggesting that as more and more is learned about pathogens, they come under control. In addition to the emergence or recognition of new pathogens, other trends include global pandemics of some foodborne pathogens, the emergence of antimicrobial resistance, the identification of pathogens that are highly opportunistic, affecting only the most high-risk subpopulations, and the increasing identification of large and dispersed outbreaks. New pathogens can emerge because of changing ecology or changing technology that connects a potential pathogen with the food chain. They also can emerge de novo by transfer of mobile virulence factors, often through bacteriophage. Though this is rarely observed, it can be reconstructed. Better understanding of the ecology and dynamics of phage transmission among bacteria will help us to understand the appearance of new pathogens in the future. One may look for emerging foodborne pathogens among the silent zoonoses, and among the severe infections affecting the immunocompromised humans. We should expect the unexpected. In the past, separating human sewage and animal manure from human food and water supplies was critical to improving public health. Now, our health depends increasingly on the safety of the feed and water supplies for the animals themselves. The successes of the 20th century and the new challenges we face mean that public health vigilance, careful investigation of new problems, responsible attention to food safety from farm to table, and partnerships to bring about new foodborne disease control measures will be needed for the foreseeable future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / epidemiology*
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / prevention & control
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control*
  • Drug Resistance
  • Food Contamination / prevention & control*
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Food Parasitology
  • Foodborne Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infections / epidemiology*
  • Public Health
  • Zoonoses