In October 2001, foodborne outbreaks (FBO) were included in the Portuguese alert and response surveillance system. Accordingly, the northern regional health authority (Delegado Regional de Saude do Norte--DRSN) began a surveillance programme of foodborne outbreaks. This report is a brief description of data generated from this programme in 2002. For each foodborne outbreak the local health authority (Delegado de Saude Concelhio--DSC) produced a written report. Fifty-nine percent of the 27 FBOs studied by DSCs during 2002 were reported within 72 hours after the date of onset. Five hundred and seventy seven people became ill, 9.6% of the patients were admitted to hospital, and no deaths were reported. The aetiological agent was identified from patients in 63% of FBOs, and in food items in 18.5% of the situations. Salmonella enterica was responsible for 73.7% of the outbreaks in which the agent was laboratory confirmed. Meals implicated in the outbreak were mainly prepared in restaurants and private homes (75.0% of FBO). Inadequate processing, preparing or handling of foods were the contributing factors more often reported by the DSC. We believe that epidemiological surveillance and control of FBO must be reinforced in Portugal as part of a wider strategy to promote food safety.