FSA research suggests higher estimates for UK food poisoning cases

25 February 2020

Article: 54/808

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

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

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

These new studies and their accompanying models reveal: 

  • 380,000 estimated cases of norovirus  linked to food occur in the UK every year. 
  • Eating out accounts for an estimated 37% of all foodborne norovirus cases, and takeaways account for 26% of cases. 
  • Open-headed lettuce (retail) accounts for 30% of cases, raspberries (retail) account for 4% of cases, and oysters (retail) account for 3% of cases. 
  • 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.

Source: FSA, 20 February 2020