A new University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute study offers food safety officials a systematic way to identify both the pathogens and pathogen-food combinations that can lead to a high burden of disease, according to researchers. 

"Ranking the Risks: The 10 Pathogen-Food Combinations with the Greatest Burden on Public Health," the first report to focus on the comprehensive ranking of such data for the U.S., should allow food safety regulators to target public dollars toward the biggest food safety problems and find solutions to protect consumers. According to University researchers, consumers can also use the report, not as a top 10 list of foods to avoid, but as a reminder that many of the foods we eat every day can become contaminated.


Overall, according to the study, five pathogens are responsible for more than 90% of the total $14 billion a year the U.S. spends on human disease: salmonella, campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, Toxoplasma gondii and norovirus. Salmonella is the leading disease-causing bug overall, contaminating produce and multi-ingredient foods in addition to poultry and eggs, costing the U.S. more than $3 billion annually and taking up four spots on the report's top 10 list.  

According to the study, poultry contaminated with campylobacter bacteria is the riskiest pathogen-food combination in the U.S., sickening more than 600,000 Americans at a cost of $1.3 billion per year. Salmonella in poultry as the fourth-riskiest combination (costing the U.S. $700 million per year), while salmonella in eggs took the number 10 spot on the list (costing $400 million annually). Poultry causes more foodborne disease than any other type of food, according to the analysis, costing the U.S. $2.4 billion per year.