Food Safety: Outbreak Report

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Safe Produce Hot Issues: Safe Produce

Unsafe foods cause an estimated 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths each year in the United States. Although people from all walks of life can develop foodborne illness, those who are most at risk include the elderly, young children, pregnant women and their fetuses, and the immuno-compromised. While such illnesses largely occur as isolated cases, outbreaks of food poisoning are clusters of illness that result from ingestion of a common contaminated food. A single outbreak can affect hundreds, or even thousands, of people.

Listeria 101: Super Safe Your Kitchen
September 2011

Sprouts Factsheet and Outbreak List 1990-2010
July 2011

Outbreaks Linked to Nuts
Pistachio Recall Fact Sheet

8-29-2008 Key Charts from Outbreak Alert
Produce outbreaks with an identified hazard have in recent years surpassed the number of outbreaks in poultry, beef, pork, and eggs. Although there are generally more outbreaks reported in seafood, the number of cases of illness in produce outbreaks far exceeds those made ill in seafood outbreaks. These key charts illustrate these trends.

7-21-2008 FDA Finds Salmonella Strain on Jalapeno Pepper
Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal.
More than 1,200 Americans have gotten sick and several immune-compromised people have died after eating produce contaminated with Salmonella Saint Paul.  With an investigation spanning many weeks, food safety regulators have had a challenging time trying to track suspected tomatoes and peppers up or down the supply chain, hampered by paper records and repacking practices that effectively hide the identity of produce in the distribution chain.

7-03-2008 Emergency Regs Needed for Tracking Produce, Food Groups Say
Food safety and consumer watchdogs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Consumer Federation of America are today making an urgent call to Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration: Protect Americans from unsafe food by implementing emergency regulations requiring traceability for produce.

6-20-2008 House Vote for More Food Safety Money Praised
The Food and Drug Administration clearly needs the $150 million in new money approved by the House of Representatives last night, particularly the $67 million designated for the Centers for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

6-10-2008FDA Inaction to Blame for Salmonella Outbreak
Statement of CSPI Staff Attorney Sarah Klein
The Food and Drug Administration deserves any rotten tomatoes thrown its way in the wake of this latest outbreak.

5-8-2008Senate Move on FDA Funding Praised
Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal
CSPI urges all members of the Appropriations Committee and the leadership of both chambers of Congress to support Senator Kohl's amendment.

4-24-2008CSPI Testimony on the Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act
Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI's Food Safety Director, testified before the House Subcommittee on Health of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

4-17-2008 House to Consider Comprehensive FDA Reform Bill
Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal
After numerous foodborne illness outbreaks and scores of hearings on Capitol Hill, House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell, together with Representatives Frank Pallone, Bart Stupak, and Diane DeGette, has introduced a package of urgently-needed FDA reforms that, if enacted, will go a long way toward restoring Americans' confidence in the safety of our food supply.


2-04-2008 Bush Food Protection Intiative Fails to Nourish a Starving FDA
Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal
The 2009 President's budget fails to reverse the history of starving this critical public health agency of essential resources.

12-20-2007Produce and Poultry Top Cause of "Illness Linked to Outbreaks"
Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal
CSPI identified the most common food/pathogen combinations in outbreaks linked to fruits and vegetables. Norovirus and Salmonella were the two most prevalent pathogens, with Norovirus most often affecting salad greens and fruits, and Salmonella showing up on sprouts, salad greens, melons and potatoes.

12-10-2007 Produce Outbreaks 1990-2005
CSPI's quick reference guide on the number of produce-related outbreaks and the number of illnesses caused in each outbreak between 1990 and 2005.

12-05-2007 Stronger FDA and Modernized Food Safety Law Clearly Needed, According to CSPI
Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal
Working with the Coalition for a Stronger FDA, CSPI is urging the Bush Administration to give FDA a realistic budget request for 2009 that will address this urgent shortfall, and to support the need for a multi-year effort to at least double the FDA's budget within 5 years.

12-01-2007 Outbreak Alert CSPI's ongoing analysis of outbreaks of foodborne illness
CSPI tracked a total of 5,316 foodborne illness outbreaks, involving 157,830 individual cases that occurred between 1990 and 2005. The food categories most commonly linked to foodborne illness outbreaks were:

  • - Seafood: 1,053 outbreaks involving 10,415 cases of illness
    - Produce: 713 outbreaks involving 34,049 cases of illness
    - Poultry: 580 outbreaks involving 17,661 cases of illness
    - Beef: 506 outbreaks involving 13,873 cases of illness
    - Eggs: 352 outbreaks involving 11,224 cases of illness

  • Outbreak Alert Report (Full)

9-27-2007 CSPI Testimony on H.R. 3610, the Food and Drug Import Safety Act
Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI’s Director of Food Safety, testified before the House Committee Subcommittee on Health.

9-20-2007 Food Safety Act Calls For Inspections on Produce Farms
Legislation introduced today by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) would establish a national program to assure the safety of fresh produce. The introduction of the Fresh Produce Safety Act comes one year after the biggest recall of fresh produce in American history, when spinach contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 sickened 205 people. More than 100 of those were hospitalized, and at least three people died.
Press release

9-17-2007 What’s Making Us Sick?
New Online Resource From CSPI Offers Researchers, Journalists & Consumers the Best Data on Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness. The new online database lets individuals search by food, by pathogen, or by state.

7-12-2007 Outbreaks by the Numbers: Fruits and Vegetables 1990-2005
Poster Presentation on the International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting 2007 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida during July 8-11, 2007.

5-15-2007 CSPI Testimony Addressing Modern Hazards in the Food Supply
Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI's Director of Food Safety, testified before a U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture.

5-8-2007CSPI Testimony on the Safety of Imported Foods and Ingredients
Caroline Smith DeWaal provided testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture in opposition to a proposal to move food safety import monitoring from FDA to USDA.

4-13-2007 CSPI's Presentation at FDA's Hearing on the "Safety of Fresh Produce"

3-12-2007 CSPI Testimony to Improve Produce Safety
Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI's Director of Food Safety, testified before a U.S. Senate Subcommittee in Madison, Wisconsin. "Seventy-six million Americans get sick and 5,000 die from foodborne hazards each year," Smith DeWall explained, "The Safe Food Act works to prevent foodborne illness and bioterrorism without grand schemes or an inflated budget."

12-8-2006 Fear of Fresh
The cover story in CSPI's Nutrition Action Healthletter identifies the sources of food borne illness, tells consumers how to store leftovers safely, and has a Q&A with Robert Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

11-15-2006 CSPI Urges FDA to Regulate Food Safety on Farms
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) formally called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue regulations to ensure the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

10-25-06 California Urged to Monitor Farms for Food Safety
The state of California should move quickly to adopt regulations governing the production of fruit and vegetables in California since no federal agency has yet adopted standards, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.

08-01-06 Six Arguments for a Greener Diet
By all means, don't stop including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Avoiding foodborne illness is the second of CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson's six compelling arguments. The first is reducing your risk of chronic disease by eating a more plant-based diet, and less fatty animal products. Much of the contamination involving fresh fruits and vegetables can be traced back to problems with animal agriculture.

11-21-2005 Salmonella Outbreaks Linked to Produce on the Rise
Most people properly associate Salmonella with raw poultry. But according to an analysis of food-poisoning outbreaks by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, fresh produce is catching up with chicken as a major culprit of Salmonella infections.

04-06-2005 Single Food Safety Agency Needed, Says CSPI
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) today introduced the Safe Food Act of 2005, a bill that would help protect consumers from food-borne illness by consolidating the current fragmented and overlapping food-safety system, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The bill would establish a comprehensive program to protect public health while also bolstering consumer confidence in the safety of the food supply.