Reporting of Foodborne Illness by U.S. Consumers and Healthcare Professionals

Strohbehn, Catherine
Arendt, Susan
Arendt, Susan
Rajagopal, Lakshman
Strohbehn, Catherine
Stokes, Nathan
Meyer, Janell
Mandernach, Steven
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Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management

During 2009–2010, a total of 1,527 foodborne disease outbreaks were reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2013). However, in a 2011 CDC report, Scallanet al. estimated about 48 million people contract a foodborne illness annually in the United States. Public health officials are concerned with this under-reporting; thus, the purpose of this study was to identify why consumers and healthcare professionals don’t report foodborne illness. Focus groups were conducted with 35 consumers who reported a previous experience with foodborne illness and with 16 healthcare professionals. Also, interviews with other healthcare professionals with responsibility of diagnosing foodborne illness were conducted. Not knowing who to contact, being too ill, being unsure of the cause, and believing reporting would not be beneficial were all identified by consumers as reasons for not reporting foodborne illness. Healthcare professionals that participated in the focus groups indicated the amount of time between patients’ consumption of food and seeking treatment and lack of knowledge were barriers to diagnosing foodborne illness. Issues related to stool samples such as knowledge, access and cost were noted by both groups. Results suggest that barriers identified could be overcome with targeted education and improved access and information about the reporting process.


This article is published as Arendt, S.; Rajagopal, L.; Strohbehn, C.; Stokes, N.; Meyer, J.; Mandernach, S. Reporting of Foodborne Illness by U.S. Consumers and Healthcare Professionals. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013, 10, 3684-3714.Doi: 10.3390/ijerph10083684. Posted with permission.