Foodborne illness acquired in the United States--unspecified agents

Emerg Infect Dis. 2011 Jan;17(1):16-22. doi: 10.3201/eid1701.091101p2.


Each year, 31 major known pathogens acquired in the United States caused an estimated 9.4 million episodes of foodborne illness. Additional episodes of illness were caused by unspecified agents, including known agents with insufficient data to estimate agent-specific illness, known agents not yet recognized as causing foodborne illness, substances known to be in food but of unproven pathogenicity, and unknown agents. To estimate these additional illnesses, we used data from surveys, hospital records, and death certificates to estimate illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths from acute gastroenteritis and subtracted illnesses caused by known gastroenteritis pathogens. If the proportions acquired by domestic foodborne transmission were similar to those for known gastroenteritis pathogens, then an estimated 38.4 million (90% credible interval [CrI] 19.8-61.2 million) episodes of domestically acquired foodborne illness were caused by unspecified agents, resulting in 71,878 hospitalizations (90% CrI 9,924-157,340) and 1,686 deaths (90% CrI 369-3,338).

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Food Microbiology
  • Foodborne Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / etiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / mortality
  • Gastroenteritis / epidemiology*
  • Gastroenteritis / etiology*
  • Gastroenteritis / mortality
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Population Surveillance
  • United States / epidemiology