Produce-Related Foodborne-Illness Outbreaks

  • From 1990 through 2005, at least 713 produce-related outbreaks have occurred.1  
  • From 1996 to 2007 there were approximately 72 reported outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with roughly 20 fresh produce commodities, both domestic and imported. Of this total, 13 outbreaks were associated with tomatoes, 11 outbreaks were associated with melons, and 24 outbreaks were associated with leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach.2 
  • In the 1990s, at least 12 percent of all foodborne-outbreak-associated illnesses implicated fresh fruits and vegetables.3 
  • Between 1996 and 2004, FDA responded to 14 outbreaks of foodborne illness for which fresh lettuce or fresh tomatoes were the confirmed or suspected vehicle. These outbreaks account for approximately 859 reported cases of illness.4 
  • Since 1990, more than 3,000 Americans have become ill from 24 known tomato outbreaks.5 
  • Between 1995 and 2005, there were 19 outbreaks of foodborne illness caused by Escherichia coli O157:H7 for which fresh or fresh-cut lettuce or spinach was implicated as the outbreak vehicle.  In one additional case, fresh-cut spinach was implicated. These 19 outbreaks account for approximately 409 reported cases of illness and two deaths.6
  • More illness results from each produce outbreak (an average of 48 cases) than from the average outbreak associated with poultry (30 cases), beef (27 cases), or seafood (10 cases).7 

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References

1Caroline Smith DeWaal and Farida Bhuiya, Outbreaks by the Numbers: Fruits and Vegetables 1990-2005, Center for Science and the Public Interest,5. available here.
2HHS, FDA USDA, CDC, Guidance for Industry, Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetable (1998), available here.
3UHHS, FDA, CDC, CFSAN, Office of Plant and Dairy Foods, Produce Safety From Production to Consumption: 2004 Action Plan to Minimize Foodborne Illness  Associated with Fresh Produce Consumption (2004), available here.
4HHS, FDA, CFSAN, Office of Plant and Dairy Foods, Letter To Firms that Grow, Pack, or Ship Fresh Lettuce and Fresh Tomatoes, available here.
5Sara Klein, FDA Inaction to Blame for Salmonella Outbreak, Press release, Center for Science in the Public Intrest (June 10, 2008), available here.
6HHS, FDA, CFSAN, Office of Plant and Dairy Foods, Letter to California Firms that Grow, Pack, Process, or Ship Fresh and Fresh-cut Lettuce (2005), available here.
7Caroline Smith DeWaal, Testifying before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Import Inspection Failures and What Must Be Done, 110th Cong. 2nd sess., July 17, 2007.