Deadliest Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

Foodborne illness (also known as foodborne disease or food poisoning) is any illness resulting from the food spoilage of contaminated food, pathogenic bacteria, viruses, toxins or parasites that contaminate food.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 48 million foodborne illness cases occur in the United States every year.  At least 128,000 Americans are hospitalized, and 3,000 die after eating contaminated food.

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List of Deadliest Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

Below is a historical list of foodborne illness caused by infectious disease outbreaks with the greatest death toll.

Year Event Agent Company
Infected
Deaths
1963 botulism case from canned tuna Botulism A&P
2
1971 botulism case from Bon Vivant soup Botulism Bon Vivant Company
2
1
1985 California listeriosis outbreak in cheese Listeria Jalisco Cheese
>86
47-52
1985 U.S. salmonellosis outbreak in milk Salmonella Hillfarm Dairy
5,295
9
1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak E. coli O157:H7 Jack in the Box
>700
4
1996 Odwalla E. coli outbreak E. coli O157:H7 Odwalla
66
1
1998 U.S. listeriosis outbreak in cold cuts Listeria Bil Mar Foods
>100
18-21
2002 U.S. listeriosis outbreak in poultry Listeria Pilgrim’s Pride
>50
8
2003 U.S. hepatitis A outbreak Hepatitis A
555
3
2005 South Wales E. coli O157 outbreak E. coli O157 local butcher
157
1
2006 North American E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in spinach E. coli O157:H7 Dole Foods
>205
3
2008 Canadian listeriosis outbreak in cold cuts Listeria Maple Leaf Foods
>50
22
2008 U.S. salmonellosis outbreak in peanuts Salmonella Peanut Corporation of America
>200
9
2011 Germany E. coli O104:H4 outbreak E. coli O104:H4
>3,950
53
2011 U.S. listeriosis outbreak in cantaloupes Listeria Jensen Farms
146
30
2014 Danish listeriosis outbreak Listeria Jørn A. Rullepølser
> 37
15
2016 Campylobacteriosis from unchlorinated drinking water Campylobacter Hastings District Council
5,500
3

Latest USDA Food Safety Recalls

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) ensures that our nation’s meat, poultry and processed egg supply is wholesome, safe and properly labeled. The USDA’s mission is to meet new foodborne safety challenges through prevention-based policies and practices.