Foodborne Disease Outbreaks in Correctional Institutions-United States, 1998-2014

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To present the first update on the epidemiology of US foodborne correctional institution outbreaks in 20 years.


We analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System to describe correctional institution outbreaks from 1998 to 2014 and compare them with other foodborne outbreaks.


Two hundred foodborne outbreaks in correctional institutions were reported, resulting in 20 625 illnesses, 204 hospitalizations, and 5 deaths. Median number of outbreak-associated illnesses per 100 000 population per year was 45 (range = 11-141) compared with 7 (range = 4-10) for other outbreaks. These outbreaks accounted for 6% (20 625 of 358 330) of outbreak-associated foodborne illnesses. Thirty-seven states reported at least 1 outbreak in a correctional institution. Clostridium perfringens (28%; 36 of 128) was the most frequently reported single etiology. The most frequently reported contributing factor was food remaining at room temperature (37%; 28 of 76).


Incarcerated persons suffer a disproportionate number of outbreak-associated foodborne illnesses. Better food safety oversight and regulation in correctional food services could decrease outbreaks.

Public Health Implications

Public health officials, correctional officials, and food suppliers can work together for food safety. Clearer jurisdiction over regulation of correctional food services is needed.

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