CFI Comments on:

CDC's Burden of Disease Report

December 15, 2010


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new burden of disease estimates for foodborne illness, released on December 15, 2010, are comprised of two papers: 1) Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States – Major Pathogens, and 2) Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States – Unspecified Agents



Taken together, these papers substantiate that foodborne illness is a serious public health issue, causing millions of illnesses, thousands of hospitalizations and approximately 3,000 deaths each year. In both papers, the CDC acknowledges that these new estimates are based on different methodologies than the 1999 Mead study, making it inappropriate to compare the new estimates to the old estimates. Specifically, the new estimates were derived using a stricter definition of acute gastroenteritis and only include domestic cases of foodborne illness. According to one of the papers the “lower estimate of episodes of acute gastroenteritis probably resulted from changes in data sources and methods rather than a real decline in the rate of illness” (, Foodborne Illness, USA—Unspecified Agents). Therefore, while these estimates are lower than CDC’s 1999 Mead study, the new disease estimates continue to be high and clearly indicate that much more needs to be done to prevent foodborne illness in the United States.


In planning for the future, the new papers also indicate that investments and innovations in surveillance and data analysis are needed to increase our knowledge about the impacts – both economic and long-term health outcomes -- caused by foodborne disease. Some of the food safety gaps identified include:


Under-reporting of foodborne illness;

Lack of food attribution data;

Poor understanding about the unspecified agents or emerging pathogens, in particular the antibiotic resistant strains.

CFI’s goals include encouraging research, advocating for science-informed policies, and educating all food safety stakeholders about preventive measures to reduce the incidence of foodborne disease. We believe that these reports shed new information to guide food safety policy makers and regulators as they continue to look for science-informed solutions to persistent food safety challenges.


For an in-depth review of CDC’s new estimates, from Dr. J. G. Morris, Jr., University of Florida, click here >>>.