Top 10 food poisoning outbreaks 2000-2004
Top 10 food poisoning outbreaks 2000-2004
By SRUTHI KUNNEL
November 20, 2006
Food illnesses often sicken hundreds of Americans in a single outbreak, making them the kind of mass-disease events
that public health departments were created to detect and combat.
Here are the 10 largest food-poisoning outbreaks reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
from Jan. 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2004, according to a Scripps Howard News Service study of federal outbreak records. A
total of 7,840 adults and children got sick or died.
Since local and state health departments rarely announce food sicknesses, most of these outbreaks have not previously
1. An outbreak of the Shigella sonnei bacteria, usually spread through human feces, infected 964 people in seven West
Texas counties during a four-month period in 2003. More than 70 percent of the victims were children under 12. The
outbreak began as a food-borne illness, but also spread through person-to-person contact.
2. About 950 inmates in the Illinois River Correctional Center got sick after eating roast beef with mashed potatoes and
gravy in September 2002. Investigators determined the gravy was contaminated with the Clostridium perfringens
bacteria. Prison officials were asked to serve food hot and or use refrigeration during storage.
3. An 886-person outbreak of the Shigella flexneri bacteria began at the Shish Kabob Snack Bar in Port Washington,
N.Y., and spread to four other restaurants in May 2001. Investigators concluded that an infected worker at a
produce-distribution plant had contaminated a shipment of bruised tomatoes.
4. Another outbreak of Clostridium perfringens at a Louisiana prison sickened 880 inmates in November 2003. State
health officials said the disease was spread by food maintained at improper temperature. Louisiana officials refused to
give any other information, citing confidentiality laws. The outbreak was never reported to the public.
5. A Norovirus outbreak at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., in January 2001 sickened 811 people, six requiring
medical care. Most of the infected people were attending a pastors' conference sponsored by the International Network
of Children's Ministry. Despite an extensive investigation, health officials were not able to determine the cause.
6. Watermelon contaminated with beef juice served at a children's buffet at a Sizzler Restaurant in Milwaukee was
responsible for spreading E. coli to 736 people in July 2000. One child died of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a
complication from E. coli infections. Investigators believe the infection occurred at a meat-packaging plant in Fort
7. A food-borne outbreak affecting 707 people was reported in January 2004 in Texas, according to CDC files. However,
Texas health officials said they could find no records of this outbreak. No other information was available.
8. Texas health officials received reports from all over the nation after 700 people fell sick from the Salmonella enteritidis
bacteria following a conference at the Wyndham Anatole Hotel in Dallas in March 2002. The outbreak lasted more than
five weeks. Investigators, inviting victims to report their experiences on a password-protected Web site, eventually
identified an infected employee who prepared fresh-made salsa.
9. A privately managed cafeteria at the St. Louis Children's Hospital was the source of an outbreak of Salmonella
javiana that sickened 641 in 2003, according to CDC files. Missouri health officials said their records show that only 324
people were affected. Investigators diagnosed the disease as Salmonella javiana, but have not confirmed how the
disease spread. They suspected a food handler who worked the salad bar on the two days of the outbreak was the
source of the infection.
10. More than 500 customers of a Pennsylvania Chi-Chi's Mexican restaurant were sickened by Hepatitis A in October
2003 caused by infected raw green onions used to make salsa. Three people died. Investigators failed to identify the
exact cause of the infection in the fields where the onions were grown. The restaurant chain went into bankruptcy
because of the outbreak. Health officials set up a clinic to administer immune globulin to 10,000 people to limit the
number of secondary contaminations and contain the outbreak.
(For more stories go to scrippsnews.com)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com)