Poultry: the most common food in outbreaks with known pathogens, United States, 1998-2012

Epidemiol Infect. 2017 Jan;145(2):316-325. doi: 10.1017/S0950268816002375. Epub 2016 Oct 26.


As poultry consumption continues to increase worldwide, and as the United States accounts for about one-third of all poultry exports globally, understanding factors leading to poultry-associated foodborne outbreaks in the United States has important implications for food safety. We analysed outbreaks reported to the United States' Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System from 1998 to 2012 in which the implicated food or ingredient could be assigned to one food category. Of 1114 outbreaks, poultry was associated with 279 (25%), accounting for the highest number of outbreaks, illnesses, and hospitalizations, and the second highest number of deaths. Of the 149 poultry-associated outbreaks caused by a confirmed pathogen, Salmonella enterica (43%) and Clostridium perfringens (26%) were the most common pathogens. Restaurants were the most commonly reported location of food preparation (37% of poultry-associated outbreaks), followed by private homes (25%), and catering facilities (13%). The most commonly reported factors contributing to poultry-associated outbreaks were food-handling errors (64%) and inadequate cooking (53%). Effective measures to reduce poultry contamination, promote safe food-handling practices, and ensure food handlers do not work while ill could reduce poultry-associated outbreaks and illnesses.

Keywords: Foodborne infections; food safety; outbreaks.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Bacterial Infections / epidemiology*
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology*
  • Bacterial Infections / mortality
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Foodborne Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / etiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / mortality
  • Humans
  • Poultry*
  • Prevalence
  • Salmonella enterica
  • Survival Analysis
  • United States / epidemiology