Actually, the reported outbreaks that you hear and read about in the press are just a small fraction of total foodborne illness cases. Most people don’t report their illnesses to doctors or health departments. Only 4-6% of all cases of foodborne disease are linked to outbreaks with an identified food item — as most people who fall ill do not seek medical care and most are not associated with an outbreak. Only a small portion of these cases gets diagnosed through stool culture tests and an even smaller number of those diagnosed go on to be reported to and investigated by health departments. Because of these factors, health departments have a very difficult time linking different cases to a common food source.
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