Trends in Burdens of Disease by Transmission Source (USA, 2005-2020) and Hazard Identification for Foods: Focus on Milkborne Disease

J Epidemiol Glob Health. 2024 Mar 28. doi: 10.1007/s44197-024-00216-6. Online ahead of print.


Background: Robust solutions to global, national, and regional burdens of communicable and non-communicable diseases, particularly related to diet, demand interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary collaborations to effectively inform risk analysis and policy decisions.

Objective: U.S. outbreak data for 2005-2020 from all transmission sources were analyzed for trends in the burden of infectious disease and foodborne outbreaks.

Methods: Outbreak data from 58 Microsoft Access® data tables were structured using systematic queries and pivot tables for analysis by transmission source, pathogen, and date. Trends were examined using graphical representations, smoothing splines, Spearman's rho rank correlations, and non-parametric testing for trend. Hazard Identification was conducted based on the number and severity of illnesses.

Results: The evidence does not support increasing trends in the burden of infectious foodborne disease, though strongly increasing trends were observed for other transmission sources. Morbidity and mortality were dominated by person-to-person transmission; foodborne and other transmission sources accounted for small portions of the disease burden. Foods representing the greatest hazards associated with the four major foodborne bacterial diseases were identified. Fatal foodborne disease was dominated by fruits, vegetables, peanut butter, and pasteurized dairy.

Conclusion: The available evidence conflicts with assumptions of zero risk for pasteurized milk and increasing trends in the burden of illness for raw milk. For future evidence-based risk management, transdisciplinary risk analysis methodologies are essential to balance both communicable and non-communicable diseases and both food safety and food security, considering scientific, sustainable, economic, cultural, social, and political factors to support health and wellness for humans and ecosystems.

Keywords: Etiology; Food safety; Food security; Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) food category; National Outbreak Reporting System (NORS).