Foodborne Illness

The Federal government estimates that there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually - the equivalent of sickening 1 in 6 Americans each year. Each year these illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Good food safety practices at home and in commercial facilities can help to reduce these numbers. Since foodborne illness can be serious - or even fatal - it is important for everyone to know and practice safe food handling behaviors to help reduce the risk of accidentally getting sick from contaminated food.

Foodborne illness investigations often begin with reports of illness by physicians, hospitals or ill people that have reason to believe something they ate made them sick. The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has information available that explains how to report a suspected foodborne illness provided on an e-card. When foodborne illness outbreaks do occur in Missouri, investigation teams are activated to pinpoint and eliminate the cause. Investigation teams include staff within various sections of the department such as: communicable disease investigators, the State Public Health Laboratory (SPHL), and environmental public health; as well as staff within Local Public Health Agencies (LPHA) and federal agencies such as the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE). With multi-state outbreaks an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) can be activated to help coordinate investigation efforts between different states and agencies. Food safety activities in a suspected foodborne illness outbreak include tracing suspected foods to their source and their distribution sites.

Information about common foodborne pathogens can be found by conducting web searches using the pathogen name. The most common foodborne pathogens in Missouri can be accessed on the ‘Pathogen’ link below.

The ultimate goal of understanding foodborne illnesses is to prevent outbreaks by educating everyone on the importance of food safety.