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Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance (FoodNet)

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Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) is a core component of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Emerging Infections Programs network (EIP), a collaboration between CDC, state health departments, and universities. (For foodborne disease outbreak reporting and investigation go to foodborne outbreaks.)

FoodNet is an active laboratory and population-based surveillance system to monitor the incidence of foodborne diseases of local and national public health importance.

Objectives are to:

  • Determine the burden of foodborne illness
  • Monitor trends in the burden of specific foodborne illnesses over time
  • Attribute the burden of foodborne illness to specific foods and settings
  • Develop and assess interventions to reduce the burden of foodborne illness

FoodNet Ongoing Surveillance Activities

Surveillance Activities

Surveillance is conducted for eight bacterial and one parasitic pathogen:

Activities include:

  • Active laboratory-based surveillance for foodborne pathogens
    The core of FoodNet is population-based active surveillance of clinical laboratories in the participating sites. Clinical laboratories that test stool samples are contacted regularly to collect information on all of laboratory-confirmed cases of foodborne illness.
  • Survey of the population
    The population survey is conducted to precisely estimate the burden of acute diarrheal illness and to describe the frequency of important exposures.
  • Survey of clinical laboratory practices
    The periodic laboratory survey is conducted to determine which pathogens are included in routine bacterial stool cultures, which tests must be specifically requested by the physician, and which specific techniques are used to isolate the pathogens.
  • Survey of physicians
    The periodic survey is conducted to understand knowledge, attitudes and practices of physicians.
  • Disease attribution

FoodNet Data

Magnifying glass being used to examine a stack of charts and graphs


"Attribution" refers to attempts to assign illness caused by various enteric pathogens to specific food commodities. Such attribution may be done at several levels, including animal reservoirs (e.g., cattle), food-processing plants (e.g., slaughterhouses or packaging plants), retail foods (e.g., ground beef), or even specific foods eaten (e.g., tacos).

In an outbreak of foodborne disease, the specific food source may be learned with certainty. In the case of "sporadic" cases of foodborne illness, however, food sources cannot be attributed with certainty, but must be inferred. Such inferences may be based on various data sources, including types of pathogens found in various food animals, the foods implicated as causes of outbreaks, or even by asking experts what their best guesses are.

Below are links that highlight some of the efforts being made by FoodNet to attribute enteric illnesses to food sources and to offer links to efforts being made by other experts in foodborne illness.

CDC Data

Other Data


Food Safety Regulations

FoodNet Publications

Articles of Interest

  • CDC Annual Summaries of Foodborne Outbreaks
  • Bonner KE, Carter M, Zielinski C, Morey K, McLitus L, DeBess E, Hatch J, Leman R. Notes from the Field: Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli.
  • Besser J, Singer R, Jervis RH, Boxrud D, Smith K, Daly ER; Members of the APHL, CSTE Enteric Disease Exclusion Policies Workgroup. Laboratory Criteria for Exclusion and Readmission of Potentially Infectious Persons in Sensitive Settings in the Age of Culture-Independent Diagnostic Tests: Report of a multidisciplinary workgroup. J Food Prot. 2023 Dec;86(12):100173. 
  • Patel K, Stapleton, GS, Trevejo RT, Tellier WT, Higa J, Adams JK, Hernandez SM, Sanchez S, Nemeth NM, Debess EE, Rogers KH, Mete A, Watson KD, Foss L, Low MSF, Gollarza L, Nichols M. Human Salmonellosis Outbreak Linked to Salmonella Typhimurium Epidemic in Wild Songbirds, United States, 2020-2021. Emerg Infect Dis. 2023 Nov;29(11):2298-2306. 
  • Hines JZ, Jagger MA, Jeanne TL, West N, Winquist A, Robinson BF, Leman RF, Hedberg K. Heavy precipitation as a risk factor for shigellosis among homeless persons during an outbreak - Oregon, 2015-2016. J Infect. 2018 Mar;76(3):280-5.
  • Hines JZ, Bancroft J, Powell M, Hedberg K. Case Finding Using Syndromic Surveillance Data During an Outbreak of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli O26 Infections, Oregon, 2015. Public Health Rep. 2017 Jul/Aug;132(4):448-50. 
  • Hines JZ, Pinsent T, Rees K, Vines J, Bowen A, Hurd J, Leman RF, Hedberg K. Notes from the Field: Shigellosis Outbreak Among Men Who Have Sex with Men and Homeless Persons - Oregon, 2015-2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016 Aug 12;65(31):812-3.

See Also