WASHINGTON – Foodborne illness outbreaks totaled 1,097 and caused 21,244 illnesses and 18 deaths in 2007, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report summarizing the epidemiological data for reported foodborne outbreaks in 2007 – the most recent year available.

A foodborne outbreak is defined by CDC as the two or more similar illnesses resulting from ingestion of a common food.

In 2007, the total number of foodborne outbreaks decreased by 8% when compared to the annual averages from 2002-2006. The total number of illnesses also deceased 15% when compared with the annual averages for the same period of time.

Of the 497 outbreaks attributed to a single etiologic agent, bacteria caused 259 (52%), viruses caused 199 (40%), chemical agents 34 (7%) and parasites caused five (1%) of the outbreaks. Norovirus was the single most-common cause attributed to an outbreak followed by Salmonella.

Eighteen multistate foodborne illness outbreaks were recorded – 10 were associated with Salmonella, six with Escherichia coli, one with Clostridium botulinum and one with norovirus.

One single food commodity was linked to 235 outbreaks with 4,119 illnesses. Outbreaks were most commonly associated with fin fish (41), poultry (40) and beef (33). Illnesses were most frequently associated with poultry (691), beef (661) and leafy vegetables (590).

Eleven of the 18 deaths were attributed to norovirus, five deaths were attributed to Salmonella, three to Listeria monocytogenes, two to E. coli and one to C. botulinum. The etiologies of four were unknown.

Public health officials from 48 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia reported the outbreaks with an additional two states reporting illnesses indirectly. The data was collected for the year 2007 and was reported to CDC by May 3, 2010.