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FSA research suggests new higher estimates for the role of food in UK illness


May 8, 2022

A scientific review by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) estimating that around 2.4 million cases of foodborne illness occur every year in the UK has been published. This is up from the 2009 estimate of approximately one million.

The FSA is also publishing a ground-breaking five-year study into the extent of norovirus in food carried out by a consortium of UK scientists, and a further FSA paper which reviews and updates the assessment developed during that project.

These new figures do not indicate an increase in total illness, or any new risk to public health, but rather provide a better estimation of the proportion of infectious intestinal disease that is due to food. The overall estimate for this type of illness, from all sources, remains the same, at around 18 million cases each year in the UK.

These new studies and their accompanying models reveal:

- An estimated 380,000 cases of norovirus linked to food occur in the UK per year.
- A breakdown of the roles of the main transmission pathways in food suggest eating out accounts for an estimated 37% of all foodborne norovirus cases, takeaways at 26%, open-headed lettuce on retail sale at 30%, raspberries on retail sale at 4%, and oysters on retail sale at 3%.
- The revised foodborne norovirus estimate, combined with better analysis of how many illnesses of unknown cause are also likely to be caused by food, suggest around 2.4 million estimated UK cases of foodborne illness occur each year.

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Photo by Nancy Hughes on Unsplash:

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