ATLANTA – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta released data on foodborne illness outbreaks, pinpointing the number of illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths. The agency also provided summaries of the pathogens, toxins and chemical agents behind the outbreaks and other information about factors contributing to food contamination.

Public health departments reported 1,527 foodborne disease outbreaks from Jan. 1, 2009 through Dec. 31, 2010, according to the CDC. Those outbreaks resulted in 29,444 cases of illness, 1,184 hospitalizations and 23 deaths.

Salmonella caused 49 percent of outbreak-related hospitalizations, followed by E. coli (16 percent) and norovirus (9 percent). Norovirus was the most commonly reported infection (42 percent) among 790 outbreaks with a laboratory confirmed illness, according to CDC. Salmonella was second with 30 percent of outbreaks.

Additional CDC findings include:

• Outbreaks caused by some pathogens were particularly severe. For example, Listeria outbreaks resulted in the highest proportion of persons hospitalized (82 percent), followed by Clostridium botulinum (67 percent), and paralytic shellfish poisoning (67 percent).

• Among the 23 deaths, 22 were linked to bacteria (9, Listeria; 5, Salmonella; 4, E. coli O157; 3 Clostridium perfringens, and 1 Shigella), and 1 was linked to norovirus.

The germs and foods responsible for the most outbreak-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths in 2009-2010 were:

Salmonella in eggs (2231 illnesses)
Salmonella in sprouts (493 illnesses)
Salmonella in vine-stalk vegetables (422 illnesses)

Salmonella in vine-stalk vegetables (88 hospitalizations)
E. coli O157 in beef (46 hospitalizations)
Salmonella in sprouts (41 hospitalizations)

E. coli O157 in beef (3 deaths)
Salmonella in pork (2 deaths)
Listeria in dairy (2 deaths)

A large outbreak of Salmonella infections in 2010 caused nearly 2,000 illnesses. The commodities most often implicated were beef (13 percent), dairy (12 percent, nearly all unpasteurized), fish (12 percent), and poultry (11 percent).