To estimate the number of deaths from foodborne disease in the UK from 11 key pathogens.
Four different models were developed using data from a range of sources. These included enhanced surveillance, outbreaks, death certificates and hospital episode statistics data. For each model, median estimates were produced with 95% credible intervals (CrI). The results from the different models were compared.
The estimates for foodborne deaths for each pathogen from the different models were consistent, with CrIs largely overlapping. Based on the preferred model for each pathogen, foodborne norovirus is estimated to cause 56 deaths per year (95% CrI 32 to 92), foodborne Salmonella 33 deaths (95% CrI 7 to 159), foodborne Listeria monocytogenes 26 deaths (95% CrI 24 to 28), foodborne Clostridium perfringens 25 deaths (95% CrI 1 to 163) and foodborne Campylobacter 21 deaths (95% CrI 8 to 47). The considerable overlap in the CrIs means it is not possible to make any firm conclusions on ranking. Most of these deaths occur in those aged over 75 years. Foodborne deaths from Shigella, Cryptosporidium, Giardia, adenovirus, astrovirus and rotavirus are all rare.
We estimate that there are 180 deaths per year in the UK (95% CrI 113 to 359) caused by foodborne disease based on these 11 pathogens. While this is a small fraction of the estimated 2.4 million cases of foodborne illness per year it still illustrates the potential severity of these illnesses demonstrating the importance in continuing efforts to reduce these infections.
What is already known about this subject?
Foodborne disease is a common illness in the UK.
Previous research has estimated that there are 566 000 cases, 74 000 general practitioner presentations and 7600 hospital admissions related to foodborne disease from 13 known pathogens in UK; no estimate was made for deaths.
Campylobacter and norovirus are the most common foodborne pathogens in the UK.
Other common foodborne pathogens include Clostridium perfringens and Salmonella.
What are the new findings?
This study provides updated estimates of deaths for each of the 11 key foodborne pathogens considered; in total, these 11 pathogens cause 180 deaths per year in the UK (95% credible interval (CrI) 113 to 359).
Among them, Campylobacter, C. perfringens, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella and norovirus pathogens are responsible for over 98% of these deaths.
Ranking between these five is difficult due to overlapping CrIs.
How might it impact on clinical practice in the foreseeable future?
This highlights the potential severity of Salmonella, L. monocytogenes, C. perfringens, Campylobacter and norovirus, particularly in comparison with other infectious intestinal diseases that have a food source.