To quantify the impact of foodborne diseases on health, and set priorities for data collection, prevention and control of these diseases, we compiled and analyzed information from surveillance systems and other sources on the morbidity and mortality due to foodborne infectious diseases in mainland France in the last decade of the 20th century. Illness due to 13 bacteria, two viruses, and eight parasites were studied. The number of foodborne infections, hospitalizations, and deaths were estimated from multiple data sources. For each agent, several estimates were derived from the different sources. Estimates were ranked according to their plausibility, based on an assessment of the validity of the data source, and are presented as a "plausible interval" consisting of a low and high estimate. We estimate that these pathogens caused 10,200-17,800 hospitalizations per year. Salmonella is the most frequent cause (5,700-10,200 cases), followed by Campylobacter (2,600-3,500 cases) and Listeria (304 cases). Toxoplasmosis accounts for the majority of hospitalizations (426 cases) attributable to the studied parasitic infections. The number of deaths related to foodborne infection was estimated between 228 and 691. Bacterial pathogens account for the majority (191 to 652) of deaths of which 92 to 535 are attributable to salmonellosis, ranking as the first cause of death, and 78 to listeriosis, the second cause. Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria are the main causes of severe foodborne illness in France. For several pathogens, data are insufficient to derive exact estimates of the disease burden. Nevertheless, it has been possible to derive plausible estimates for the majority, and to rank them according to their impact on public health.