The following is a list of outbreaks investigations being managed by FDA’s CORE Response Teams. The investigations are in a variety of stages, meaning that some outbreaks have limited information, and others may be near completion.

public health advisory will be issued for outbreak investigations that have resulted in specific, actionable steps for consumers to take to protect themselves. Please direct your attention to those pages for the most up to date information on the investigation and for consumer protection information.

Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness

Outbreak investigations that do not result in specific, actionable steps for consumers may or may not conclusively identify a source or reveal any contributing factors. If a source and/or contributing factors are identified that could inform future prevention, FDA commits to providing a summary of those findings.

I posted this on Food Safety News just before the US elections.

Setting aside the fact that, after tomorrow’s election, the United States may well have a non-functioning democracy and that both its civil and criminal justice system may collapse under the weight of political violence.  On that happy note, in the past, our civil justice system has held food producers to account. And at times – in rare circumstances – criminal sanctions have been levied in certain food poisoning events.

Tomorrow, I will arise at 3:00 AM to do a Zoom speech in South Africa. I would have flown there, but the United States’ response to COVID-19 has been so pathetic that we are all banned from international travel – a minor inconvenience, but a major embarrassment.

My talk is about the intersection between COVID-19 and food safety, but a South African tragedy is not far from my mind. The 2017-2018 outbreak in South Africa linked to Tiger Brand Polony was the largest recognized listeriosis outbreak in world history. There were over 1,000 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases from January 2017 to July 2018. There were at least 216 deaths, including 93 babies under one month of age. Many of those who survived were left with severe, life-long medical complications, and/or with the crushing grief of losing a child or another family member.

Without a doubt, the link between this human tragedy and Tiger Brand’s product is clear. A unique genetic strain of Listeria (ST6) was found in the blood or spinal fluid of the living or dead and in Tiger Brand’s plant and product.

Nearing three years since Tiger Brand’s Polokwane meat processing facility was announced as the source of the outbreak in March 2018, there has been scant progress in the civil action seeking justice for members of the Listeria Class Action filed against Tiger. The people harmed, or the families of those killed by Listeria-tainted polony consumption, are still uncompensated, which only exacerbates their losses.

In addition, despite the overwhelming evidence against Tiger, and the numbers of illnesses and deaths, the South African criminal justice system has remained silent. But why? Perhaps it is time for the South African state to look at criminal punishment as a way of reinforcing that sickening 1,000 of your customers (and killing 200) is far from acceptable.

Perhaps the United States is no longer in a position of showing how it is done, but there are in fact good examples where companies have been held criminally liable for poisoning consumers.

In 1998, in what was the first criminal conviction in a large-scale food-poisoning outbreak, Odwalla Inc. pleaded guilty to violating federal food safety laws and agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine for selling tainted apple juice that killed a 16-month-old girl and sickened 70 other people. Odwalla, based in Half Moon Bay, California, pleaded guilty to 16 counts of unknowingly delivering “adulterated food products for introduction into interstate commerce” in the October 1996 outbreak, in which a batch of its juice, contaminated with the toxic bacteria E. coli O157: H7, sickened people in Colorado, California, Washington, and Canada. As a result of the outbreak, fourteen children developed a life-threatening disease, namely hemolytic uremic syndrome, (HUS) that ravages kidneys. Odwalla was also on court-supervised probation for five years, meaning that it had to submit a detailed plan to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demonstrating its food safety precautions and that any subsequent violations could have resulted in more serious charges.

In 2012, Eric Jensen, age 37 and Ryan Jensen, age 33, brothers who owned and operated Jensen Farms, a fourth-generation cantaloupe operation located in Colorado, presented themselves to U.S. marshals in Denver and were taken into custody on federal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FDA’s criminal law enforcement arm (the Office of Criminal Investigation). According to the six-count indictment, Eric and Ryan Jensen unknowingly introduced adulterated (Listeria-tainted) cantaloupe into interstate commerce. The indictment further stated that the cantaloupe was prepared, packed, and held under conditions that rendered it injurious to health. The outbreak sickened over 147, killing over 33, in 28 states in the fall of 2011. The Jensens faced up to six years in jail and $1,500,000 in fines each. They eventually pleaded guilty and were sentenced to five years’ probation.

In 2013, Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, both faced charges stemming from a Salmonella outbreak caused by their Iowa egg farms in 2010. The Salmonella outbreak ran from May 1 to November 30, 2010, and prompted the recall of more than half a billion eggs. And while there were 1,939 confirmed infections, statistical models used to account for Salmonella illnesses in the U.S. suggested that the eggs might have sickened more than 62,000 people. The family business, known as Quality Egg LLC, pleaded guilty in 2015 to a federal felony count of bribing a USDA egg inspector and to two misdemeanors of unknowingly introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. As part of the plea agreement, Quality Egg paid a $6.8-million fine and the DeCosters $100,000 each, for a total of $7 million. Both DeCosters were sentenced to (and ultimately spent) three months in jail.

In 2014, former Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell, his brother and one-time peanut broker, Michael Parnell, and Mary Wilkerson, former quality control manager at the company’s Blakely, Georgia, plant, faced a federal jury in Albany, Georgia. The 12-member jury found Stewart Parnell guilty on 67 federal felony counts, Michael Parnell was found guilty on 30 counts, and Wilkerson was found guilty of one of the two counts of obstruction of justice charged against her. Two other PCA employees pleaded guilty as well. The felony charges of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce “with the intent to defraud or mislead” stemmed from a 2008-2009 Salmonella outbreak that sickened 714 and left nine dead. In 2015, Steven Parnell was sentenced to a 28-year prison term. His brother Michael was also convicted of multiple felony counts and sentenced to 20 years.

In 2015, ConAgra Foods agreed to plead guilty and pay $11.2 million in connection with the shipment of Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter linked to a 2006-2007 nationwide outbreak that sickened over 700. ConAgra signed a plea agreement admitting that it unknowingly introduced Peter Pan and private label peanut butter contaminated with Salmonella into interstate commerce during the 2006-2007 outbreak.

In 2020, a federal court in Texas sentenced ice cream manufacturer Blue Bell Creameries to pay $17.25 million in criminal penalties for shipments of contaminated products linked to a 2015 listeriosis outbreak. The plea agreement and criminal information filed against Blue Bell alleged that the company distributed ice cream products that were manufactured under insanitary conditions and contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, in violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. According to the plea agreement, Texas state officials notified Blue Bell in February 2015 that samples of two ice cream products from the company’s Brenham, Texas factory tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, a dangerous pathogen that can lead to serious illness or death in vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. Blue Bell, again, chose not to issue any formal notification to its customers (which included military installations) regarding the positive tests. Blue Bell pleaded guilty in May 2020 to two misdemeanor counts of distributing adulterated ice cream products. The $17.25 million fine and forfeiture amount was the largest-ever criminal penalty following a conviction in a food safety case at the time.

In 2020, Chipotle Mexican Grill agreed to pay a $25 million criminal fine and institute a comprehensive food safety program to resolve criminal charges that it adulterated food that sickened more than 1,100 people across the United States from 2015 to 2018. The Justice Department charged Chipotle with two counts of violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by adulterating food while held for sale after shipment in interstate commerce. In conjunction with the criminal information filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles, prosecutors also filed a deferred prosecution agreement in which Chipotle agreed to pay $25 million – the largest fine ever imposed in a food safety case to this day. The criminal charges stem, in part, from incidents related to outbreaks in Chipotle restaurants of norovirus, a highly contagious pathogen that can be easily transmitted by infected food workers handling ready-to-eat foods and their ingredients. Norovirus can cause severe symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping.

Perhaps South Africa can take a few pages out of the Department of Justice’s criminal prosecution playbook and get justice for the victims, as well as send a warning to food manufacturers to focus on food safety.  With over 1,000 sick with over 200 dead, justice demands it.

Late Friday, the CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) reported that they are investigating a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections.

As of October 22, 2020, a total of 10 people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from three states – New York, Massachusetts and Florida.

Listeria samples from ill people were collected from August 6, 2020, to October 3, 2020. Ill people range in age from 40 to 89 years, with a median age of 81 years. Eighty percent of ill people are female. All 10 ill people were hospitalized. One death has been reported from Florida.

Epidemiologic evidence shows that deli meat is a likely source of this outbreak.

State and local public health officials interviewed ill people about the foods they ate in the month before they became ill. Of the nine people interviewed, all reported eating Italian-style deli meats, such as salami, mortadella, and prosciutto. They reported purchasing prepackaged deli meats and meats sliced at deli counters at various locations.

Listeria bacteria can spread easily to other foods and surfaces. The bacteria in a contaminated deli product may spread to other deli meats and cheeses in shared display cases or equipment at deli counters.  A traceback investigation is ongoing to determine if there is a specific type of deli meat or a common supplier linked to illness.

What to know about Listeria?

People who are higher risk of getting sick from Listeria should avoid eating deli meats, unless they are heated to an internal temperature of 165°F or until steaming hot just before serving.

Symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes usually begin one to four weeks after eating the contaminated food.  However, those who become ill have reported symptoms as early as one to seventy days after consuming the tainted food.

What are symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes?

  • Fever
  • Muscle ache
  • Nausea or diarrhea

What are the symptoms if the infection spreads to the nervous system? 

  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • Loss of balance
  • Convulsions

Pregnant women experience mild, flu-like symptoms. However, Listeria infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, infection of the newborn, or stillbirth.

The Marler Clark Listeria lawyers have unmatched experience representing victims of Listeria. Our Listeria lawyers have represented thousands of victims of notable Listeria outbreaks such as the 2011 Jensen Farms Listeria outbreak where over 33 people died, the 2010 Sangar Fresh Cut Produce Listeria outbreak, the 2007 Whittier Farms Listeria outbreak, the 2012 Marte brand Fescolina ricotta salata cheese Listeria outbreak, the 2016 Dole Lettuce Listeria outbreak and the 2017 Vulto Creamery Listeria outbreak.  We are presently assisting in a Listeria outbreak in South Africa that sickened over 1,000 and killed over 200.

More Resources

Learn more about Listeria

Family Health Guide About Listeria infection, or Listeriosis

CDC, public health and regulatory officials in 14 states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigated a multistate outbreak of Cyclospora infections.

As of September 23, 2020, a total of 701 people with laboratory-confirmed Cyclospora infections associated with this outbreak were reported from 14 states: GA, IL, IA, KS, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, PA, SD, WI. Exposures were reported in 13 states (IL, IA, KS, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, PA, SD, WI).

Illnesses started on dates ranging from May 11, 2020 to July 24, 2020. Ill people ranged in age from 11 to 92 years with a median age of 57; 51% were female.

38 (5%) people were hospitalized. No deaths were reported in this outbreak.

Epidemiologic evidence and product traceback indicated that bagged salad mix containing iceberg lettuce, carrots, and red cabbage produced by Fresh Express was a likely source of this outbreak.
Fresh Express brand and private label brand salad products produced at its Streamwood, IL facility that contained iceberg lettuce, red cabbage, and/or carrots on June 27, 2020.

In Canada, as of July 8, 2020, there are 37 confirmed cases of Cyclospora illness linked to this outbreak in three provinces: Ontario (26), Quebec (10) and Newfoundland and Labrador (1). Individuals became sick between mid-May and mid-June 2020. One individual has been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 21 and 70 years of age. The majority of cases (76%) are female.

Some of the individuals who became sick reported having eaten certain Fresh Express brand salad products containing iceberg lettuce, red cabbage and carrots before their illnesses occurred. The source of illness for the remaining individuals continues to be under investigation.

Cyclospora:   Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Cyclospora outbreaks. The Cyclospora Attorneys and Lawyers have represented victims of Cyclospora and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $750 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.

If you or a family member became ill with a Cyclospora infection after consuming food and you are interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Cyclospora attorneys for a free case evaluation.

Epidemiologic and traceback evidence showed that red onions from Thomson International Inc. were the likely source of this outbreak. Other onion types (such as white, yellow, or sweet yellow) were also likely to be contaminated because the onions were grown and harvested together.

In Canada there were 515 confirmed cases of Salmonella Newport illness linked to this outbreak in the following provinces: British Columbia (121), Alberta (293), Saskatchewan (35), Manitoba (26), Ontario (14), Quebec (25) and Prince Edward Island (1). Individuals became sick between mid-June and late-August 2020. Seventy-nine individuals were hospitalized. Three people died, but Salmonella did not contribute to the cause of these deaths. Individuals who became ill were between 1 and 100 years of age. The majority of cases (54%) were female.

In the United States a total of 1,127 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Newport were reported from 48 states. Illnesses started on dates ranging from June 19, 2020, to September 11, 2020 . Ill people ranged in age from less than 1 to 102 years, with a median age of 41. Fifty-eight percent of ill people were female. Of 705 ill people with information available, 167 people were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.

FDA and states reviewed records where ill people purchased or ate onions and foods containing onions. This traceback investigation identified Thomson International Inc. as the likely source of red onions.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) also investigated an outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections in Canada that was related genetically by WGS to the U.S. outbreak. Their investigation identified red onions from Thomson International Inc. as the likely source of their outbreak.

On August 1, 2020, Thomson International Inc. recalled all red, yellow, white, and sweet yellow onions because they may be contaminated with Salmonella. Other companies also recalled onions or foods made with recalled onions. See the full list of recalled products. Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, serve, or sell recalled onions and products.

As of October 8, 2020, this outbreak appears to be over. FDA is continuing their investigation to find the root cause of this outbreak.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $750 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants.  The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.

If you or a family member became ill with a Salmonella infection, including Reactive Arthritis or Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Salmonella attorneys for a free case evaluation.

Additional Resources:

A total of 101 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis were reported from 17 states.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from June 29, 2020, to August 27, 2020. Ill people ranged in age from 1 to 92 years, with a median age of 43. Sixty-four percent of ill people were female. Of 90 ill people with available information, 28 hospitalizations were reported. No deaths were reported.

In Canada total, there were 57 confirmed cases of Salmonella Enteritidis illness linked to this outbreak in two provinces: Ontario (41) and Quebec (16). Individuals became sick between June and August 2020. Twelve individuals were hospitalized. No deaths were reported. Individuals who became ill were between 0 and 91 years of age. The majority of cases (60%) were female.

Whole genome sequencing analysis showed that an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections in Canada was related genetically to this outbreak in the United States. This means that people in both outbreaks were likely to share a common source of infection.

Epidemiologic and traceback evidence indicated that peaches packed or supplied by Prima Wawona or Wawona Packing Company were the likely source of this outbreak.

The FDA and regulatory officials in several states collected records from grocery stores where ill people reported buying peaches. These records showed that loose and bagged peaches distributed by Wawona Packing Company, LLC, were sold at multiple grocery stores where ill people bought peaches.

On August 22, 2020, Prima Wawona recalled bagged and bulk, or loose, peaches that they supplied to retailers nationwide. See FDA’s notice for a list of recalled products. Recalled products are past their shelf life and should no longer be available in stores.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $750 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants.  The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.

If you or a family member became ill with a Salmonella infection, including Reactive Arthritis or Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Salmonella attorneys for a free case evaluation.

Additional Resources: