Foodborne Illness

In Australia it is estimated that there are 5.4 million cases of foodborne illness each year.

Generally foodborne illness is associated with symptoms of gastroenteritis (vomiting and/or diarrhoea), however consumption of contaminated food may cause other, more severe symptoms including: meningitis, septicaemia, neurological conditions and hepatitis. Some foodborne illness pathogens may also cause chronic conditions or disease, including reactive arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and Guillain-Barrè syndrome. In some high risk population groups, foodborne illness may be fatal, with 80 deaths occurring each year.

Reasons to investigate clusters or outbreaks of foodborne illness include:

  • Identify the causes of foodborne illness and prevent further cases of infection
  • Identify inappropriate practices in the food industry which may lead to food contamination and further cases
  • Understand the epidemiology of foodborne disease
  • Provide data for risk assessments and policy interventions
  • Assist in assessing the burden of foodborne illness on the community

Information for the public: Are you part of a cluster?

Information for GPs and Health Professionals