Almost 50 million people per year get food poisoning in the United States
Food poisoning in the United States is a huge problem. The estimated annual number of food poisoning cases occurring in the United States is 48 million, or 1 in 6 people. Of that number, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 9.4 million are attributable to the 31 pathogens that are known to cause such illness. The remaining number of foodborne illnesses are attributed to “unspecified agents.” Unspecified agents are those agents that 1) are not yet identified or described, 2) are known, but insufficient data exists to attribute a particular illness to them, or 3) are substances known to exist in food (such as chemicals and microbes), but are not yet specifically proven to cause food poisoning. Because unspecified agents fall into the above categories, the estimated number constitutes an educated guess. Illnesses attributed to unspecified agents are included in the annual estimated number because, though the culprit may be unidentified, the symptoms of food poisoning are present.
Annual hospitalizations in the U.S. attributed to food poisoning number an estimated 128,000. An approximated 56,000 are attributed to known pathogens, and 72,000 are attributed to unspecified agents. For deaths, the annual estimate is around 3,000, with 1,300 attributed to known pathogens and 1,700 attributed to unspecified agents.
In the United States, the cost of food poisoning reaches approximately $152 billion per year. Costs associated with medical services, deaths, lost wages and disability are included in the total. The illness-causing pathogens producing the largest resulting expenses are Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Listeria.
Food poisoning detection and prevention is a high medical and public-health priority in the United States. Because much of the food we consume in the U.S. is imported, food grown, processed, produced, packaged, and/or distributed from foreign countries constitutes an area of concern for public health officials as well. Surveillance systems put in place to detect and prevent illness-causing pathogens from entering and being distributed throughout the U.S. food supply are constantly being reformed, revised and perfected. Measures to ensure that foreign countries are also equipped to detect and prevent such contamination and distribution are being developed and implemented.