Data Visualization

A Look Into Multistate Foodborne Outbreaks

Since Passage of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act

In January 2011, President Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law, signaling the first major update to our nation’s food safety framework since the Great Depression. Despite bipartisan support, and a coalition of food safety advocates and industry representatives working for its enactment, the law's implementation is woefully behind schedule. This interactive graphic represents reported multistate foodborne illness outbreaks linked to FDA-regulated products since FSMA was enacted, which constitute a small fraction of total foodborne illnesses reported during that period. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six Americans (48 million people) suffer from a foodborne illness each year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

Note: CDC has confirmed an outbreak in October linked to Shellfish. The CDC has confirmed the outbreak sickening 104 people, but do not have state-to-state data.


* The pomegranate seed cases reported from Wisconsin resulted from exposure to the product in California


What defines an outbreak?

  • An outbreak is defined as an incident in which two or more persons experience a similar illness resulting from the ingestion of a common food.
  • Sporadic cases, illnesses that are not part of an outbreak, make up the overwhelming majority of foodborne illnesses reported annually.
  • A number of events must occur for an illness to be appropriately diagnosed and reported: a sample must be submitted for testing, the test must identify the pathogen, and the illness must be reported to state public health authorities. In order to accurately estimate the number of illnesses caused by pathogens, CDC determines the number of confirmed illnesses and adjusted for underdiagnosis and, if necessary, for underreporting by using a series of component multipliers.