Each Year 1 in 6 Americans Get Sick from Eating Contaminated Food, Costing $15.5 Billion

Foodborne diseases are challenging for America’s employers—from rising healthcare costs associated with treating foodborne illnesses to lost worker productivity. Unsafe food that makes people sick has a ripple effect on businesses, communities and the U.S. economy. Annually, 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases. Foodborne illness, estimated to cost more than $15.5 billion annually, is a common, costly health problem that can be reduced. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reducing foodborne infections by just 10 percent would keep 5 million Americans from getting sick each year.

Business Pulse: Food Safety, launched today by the CDC Foundation, focuses on how CDC fights foodborne diseases to protect American consumers and businesses from contaminated foods. This timely resource provides information and practical tools to help employers improve food safety in the workplace and make food safety a part of their company culture.

“For decades, CDC has rapidly detected, investigated, and stopped foodborne outbreaks,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “New technologies, such as whole genome sequencing, help us find and stop outbreaks even faster, saving lives and money. But much more needs to be done to reduce foodborne illness in America.”

Whole genome sequencing technology, which analyzes bacteria with a new DNA “fingerprinting” method, is helping CDC and state and local health departments detect and solve a greater number of Listeria outbreaks, including recent multistate outbreaks linked to ice cream and caramel apples. In the future, this technology may be used to help solve outbreaks from other types of germs commonly transmitted through food, such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli. CDC is dedicated to protecting America’s businesses, employees and their families by linking illness in people to specific foods and targeting information to guide food safety policies and practices to make food safe and save lives.

How does foodborne illness affect businesses and consumers?
• According to CDC, 5 million people get sick from norovirus in food every year, making it the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States.
• Each year Salmonella causes 1 million illnesses in the United States, with 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths.
• Listeria is the third-leading cause of death from food poisoning, killing 1 out of 5 people it infects. Some 1,600 Americans get sick from Listeria germs every year.

This issue of Business Pulse highlights food safety challenges faced by all businesses, as well as a question and answer feature with food safety expert Robert Tauxe, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases. Business Pulse: Food Safety also features an interactive infographic that provides useful facts and links to online CDC tools, guidelines and resources.

Business Pulse: Food Safety is the eighth in a series of quarterly business features created by the CDC Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization. Other Business Pulse topics to date include business continuity, safe healthcare, global health security, travelers’ health, flu prevention, healthy workforce and heart health.