Report identifies most common sources of food-borne illnesses

A lettuce field is weeded as the sun rises along Highway 68 in Salinas.
(Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)
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An estimated 9 million people are sickened and 1,000 killed by food-borne illnesses in the U.S. each year, but until now officials were unable to pinpoint which foods were most likely to blame.

In a report released Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service detailed the sources of the most common food-borne illnesses with the aim of improving food safety and policy.

Among the findings:

More than 80% of E. coli O157 cases were attributed to beef or crops such as leafy vegetables.


About 75% of campylobacter illnesses were linked to dairy (66%), particularly raw milk dairy, and chicken (8%).

More than 80% of listeria illnesses were attributed to fruit (50%) and dairy (31%).

Salmonella was found in a greater variety of food groups than E.coli, campylobacter or listeria, with 77% of cases tied to seeded vegetables such as tomatoes, eggs, fruits, chicken, beef, sprouts and pork.

The study was conducted by the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration, a partnership between the CDC, the FDA and the agriculture department.

Data were collected from nearly 1,000 outbreaks between 1998 and 2012.

“The new estimates, combined with other data, may shape agency priorities and support the development of regulations and performance standards and measures, among other activities,” the CDC said in a prepared statement.