|1. Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), a surveillance program to estimate the total number of people who become ill from foodborne illnesses.|
|2. CDC Surveillance For Foodborne-disease Outbreaks 1993–1997, which counts reported foodborne outbreaks and cases.|
|3. Waterborne Disease Outbreaks 1997–1998, which counts reported waterborne outbreaks and cases.|
The latest data on medical costs of foodborne illness are presented. Food safety educators are interested in knowing what food safety behaviors people practice or don’t practice. To this end, data from the Behavorial Risk Factor Surveillance Systems and Home Food Safety Survey are examined.
How many Americans become ill and/or die from foodborne or waterborne illness? Where are they getting sick and what behaviors cause them to become ill? How much does this cost society? While these sound like simple questions, finding the answers is fraught with difficulties. Any answers are at best an estimate based on a number of assumptions. However, it is important to have accurate statistics on water—and foodborne illness and pathogens to guide efforts at prevention and to assess the effectiveness of food safety regulations.
Several factors complicate the gathering of these statistics. The vast majority of foodborne and waterborne illness episodes are not reported. For an episode to be reported, and thus counted, several things must happen. First, the ill person must seek medical care. This does not happen unless the illness is severe. Most people pass off a case of diarrhea or vomiting as the “24-hour flu” or, even if they do attribute it to something they ate, still do not seek medical attention. It is estimated that for Salmonella, a bacterium that typically causes non-bloody diarrhea, for every case that is re-