Foodborne illness outbreaks were scarce in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that trend is continuing for the first quarter of 2021. With the end of the first quarter only a couple weeks away, only two multistate outbreaks are under active investigation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), generally along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Each outbreak has brought at least one death. The open investigations from the beginning of 2021 include the February 2 Escherichia coli outbreak of an unknown food source and the February 12 Listeria outbreak that has been linked to Queso Fresco, made by El Abuelito Cheese Inc. 

The E. coli outbreak was responsible for 16 infections in five states, and resulted in nine hospitalizations and one death. Although the investigation is still active, the food source for the outbreak is still unknown.

CDC says that it is "concerned about the growing number of severe illnesses and hospitalizations in this outbreak.”

Consumers who exhibit symptoms of foodborne illnesses should write down what they ate during the week before the onset of the illness, says CDC, and report the illness to local or state health departments, so that those departments may contact the consumers who become infected.