In three new documents released (pre-publication) to support testimony before Congress, the CDC estimates that each year 1 out of 6 Americans (or 48 million people) experiences a foodborne illness, 138,000 are hospitalized, and over 3,000 die from foodborne diseases.

Norovirus is identified as the most common enteric pathogen, accounting for an estimated 5.5 million infections a year, or 58 percent of documented and diagnosed illnesses requiring clinical treatment. Salmonella was second, causing an estimated 1 million infections a year, or 11 percent of the total.

Previously, CDC has said that foodborne diseases cause 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. The CDC states that the new numbers are more accurate and cannot be compared to past estimates.

In the first of these reports, using MMWR data, 31 major pathogens were identified as the causative agents of an estimated 9.4 million episodes of documented and specifically diagnosed foodborne illness which would be expected to cause approximately 1,350 deaths annually.

After norovirus (Norwalk virus), and Salmonella, the three most common pathogens were bacteria: Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter jejuni, and Staphylococcus aureus.

The second report attempts to quantify foodborne illness with etiologies other than the 31 major pathogens discussed above.

The third report is an excellent essay, “How Safe is our Food?” by J Glenn Morris of the University of Florida.

All three reports will be published in January in the CDC’s journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Pre-publication copies of the three reports are posted below: