The States That Experience the Most Food Poisoning Outbreaks (and the States With the Least)
If you’re worried about food poisoning, you aren’t the only one. In 2018 alone, salmonella has infected many who’ve eaten pre-cut melon, eggs, and dried coconut all across the U.S. And we’re all still a bit untrusting of Romaine lettuce after the E. coli scare.
It turns out there are some states that historically experience worst food poisoning outbreaks than others. Here are the states that are the most and least likely to poison you, as well as the one state with the worst record of illness to date (page 9).
1. Most outbreaks: New York
- From 1998 to 2016: 1,142 outbreaks
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on how many foodborne illness outbreaks per state have occurred from 1998 to 2016. And according to their data, New York is a huge offender. In that 18 year span, the state experienced 1,142 outbreaks related to food and water.
As for what’s causing all this illness, a study from the Center for Science in the Public Interest found norovirus was the biggest offender, followed by salmonella and scombroid poisoning.
Next: This midwestern state seems to be one of the safest.
2. Least outbreaks: South Dakota
- From 1998 to 2016: 55 outbreaks
Midwesterners, rejoice! South Dakota is one state that’s least likely to get you sick. CDC data shows within 18 years, the state only experienced 55 outbreaks. You’re probably also in good hands with its northern neighbor, North Dakota, as this state also had less than 100 outbreaks.
As for what caused these few outbreaks, it was mostly norovirus, says CSPI.
Next: This state produces a serious number of apples — but is it safe?
3. Most: Washington
- From 1998 to 2016: 964 outbreaks
You may not suspect that Washington would be one state with a seriously high number of reported food poisoning outbreaks. But according to the CDC, the state experienced 964 outbreaks from 1998 to 2016. The good news is that most of these outbreaks affected just between two and 10 people, CSPI found, so the illnesses weren’t too widespread.
What caused these folks to get sick? For the most part, norovirus and salmonella strike again.
Next: This northern state is a safe bet.
4. Least: Vermont
- From 1998 to 2016: 81 outbreaks
You may head to Vermont for its beauty, but don’t leave without trying out some of the local favorites (or at least a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s). For 18 years, Vermont only experienced 81 food or water-related illness outbreaks, says the CDC. And CSPI also notes that, like Washington, this state saw mostly small outbreaks that affected between two and 10 people.
Salmonella accounted for most of the food-related illness in Vermont. Perhaps that’s because of all the dairy.
Next: Chicago’s a fun city in this state, but be careful of the food.
5. Most: Illinois
- From 1998 to 2016: 1,289 outbreaks
Whether you’re heading to a trip to Chicago or you live in this state, it seems food poisoning has run rampant here in the past. The CDC shares that there have been 1,289 outbreaks from 1998 to 2016 — over 10 times more than Vermont.
A variety of ailments have affected Illinois residents over the years, including norovirus and salmonella, says CSPI. Additionally, they’ve all seen a number of illnesses from Clostridium, which can cause botulism.
Next: Considering its location, we could have guessed this one would be on the “best” list.
6. Least: Montana
- From 1998 to 2016: 69 outbreaks
With just 69 outbreaks in an 18-year span according to the CDC, it seems Montana is one of the safest states in the U.S. as far as food poisoning is concerned. The data from CSPI also notes that there were so few outbreaks, it’s tough to even gather data on what affected most residents.
Montana has come under fire more recently, however. In April 2018, Marler Clark’s Food Poison Journal notes Montana may be the source of the Romaine E. coli outbreak.
Next: This southern state is well-known for its foodborne illness problems.
7. Most: Florida
- From 1998 to 2016: 2,549 outbreaks
Yes, Florida really did have this whopping number of food poisoning outbreaks between 1998 and 2016, according to CDC data. While most of these outbreaks were small in scale, they did have a few over the years that affected up to 100 people, says CSPI.
As for the type of illness, Florida is no stranger to staphylococcus, which affects the gastrointestinal tract. The staph bacteria can make toxins that are resistant to heat and often cause poisoning.
Next: It seems like a fairly empty state — but it’s also a safe one.
8. Least: Nebraska
- From 1998 to 2016: 71 outbreaks
With just 71 reported outbreaks from 1998 to 2016 according to CDC data, Nebraska’s definitely a safe bet when it comes to food poisoning. For the few illnesses that did happen, CSPI notes salmonella, E. coli, Clostridium, and norovirus were the most common ailments.
As for the more recent news, it seems Nebraska didn’t go unaffected by the E. coli outbreak in early 2018, though. The Omaha World-Herald reported there was a Nebraskan who contracted the illness.
Next: This state has had the most reported foodborne illness outbreaks of them all.
9. Most: California
- From 1998 to 2016: 2,555 outbreaks
They’re known for healthy eating, but it seems even a state this big has trouble keeping food poisoning in line. According to the CDC, California had 2,555 food and water-related outbreaks from 1998 to 2016. The good news is CSPI notes California has a large number of “solved” outbreaks, meaning they were able to identify both the pathogen and the food source to help prevent future issues.
As for what’s plagued Californians in years past, it’s a number of different illnesses. Norovirus, salmonella, and Bacillus bacteria were the biggest offenders.
Next: Where this southern state stands may surprise you.
10. Least: Mississippi
- From 1998 to 2016: 65 outbreaks
It seems like southern states may see more food poisoning than others due to the hot climate. But to our surprise, the CDC notes Mississippi only has 65 recorded outbreaks in this 18-year period.
Salmonella was far and away the illness most likely to make you sick in this state, CSPI finds. In 2016, the CDC recorded one death caused by salmonella poisoning in this state. It was likely contracted from interaction with infected backyard poultry.
Next: The Buckeye State has seen a number of issues over the years.
11. Most: Ohio
- From 1998 to 2016: 1,515 outbreaks
Ohio has a seriously offensive record when it comes to foodborne illness. The CDC says in 18 years, Ohio saw a whopping 1,515 outbreaks. And CSPI notes a number of those outbreaks affected over 100 people, which is truly frightening. There was even at least one outbreak that hit over 200 Ohio citizens.
The overwhelming cause of foodborne illness in this state is from norovirus. More recently, in 2017, CNN reported an Ohio doughnut shop was forced to close after a norovirus outbreak affected 266 people.
Next: Another midwestern state makes the list.
12. Least: Wyoming
- From 1998 to 2016: 82 outbreaks
It seems the states in the middle of America know how to keep food poisoning issues under control. The CDC shows Wyoming only saw 82 outbreaks during this time period. As for CSPI’s research, they found out of the few reported outbreaks, they’ve mostly been caused by Campylobacter bacteria.
You may not hear about Campylobacter as much as others, but it affects more than 1.3 million a year. Eating raw or undercooked poultry poses the biggest threat for contracting this illness.
Next: It’s a beautifully scenic state — but it also comes with risk.
13. Most: Michigan
- From 1998 to 2016: 1,023 outbreaks
Michigan has had a shocking number of food poisoning outbreaks in 18 years, the CDC says. What’s even worse is that out of the 1,023 outbreaks, CSPI notes only about a tenth of them were considered to be “solved.” And most of the outbreaks affected up to 25 people.
As for what caused the illness, norovirus was a huge offender. Salmonella was the second highest, but it still lagged far behind.
Next: This small, East Coast state is quite safe.
14. Least: Delaware
- From 1998 to 2016: 40 outbreaks
It’s a small state, so perhaps that’s why the number of outbreaks has remained so low over the years. Even so, the CDC reports Delaware only experienced 40 outbreaks in 18 years. And out of the few outbreaks that occurred, CSPI notes they were mostly linked to salmonella and norovirus.
Has Delaware kept up its good streak into 2018? It seems so far, so good.
Next: For being right next to North and South Dakota, you’d think this state would have fewer outbreaks.
15. Most: Minnesota
- From 1998 to 2016: 1,001 outbreaks
While Minnesota’s neighbors, North and South Dakota, saw less than 100 outbreaks each during this time period, the same can’t be said for this state. Minnesota had over 1,000 outbreaks, according to the CDC.
Like so many other states, norovirus was what made most people ill. We remember when one strain hit Minnesota and caused 20 outbreaks in 2015.
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