The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) recently published a summary of foodborne illness outbreak investigations involving FSIS-regulated products during Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, covering October 1, 2022–September 30, 2023.

In the case of a foodborne illness outbreak, FSIS collects and evaluates epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback information to determine if there is an association between an FSIS-regulated product and human illnesses, and to inform actions that may be required to protect public health. In FY 2023, outbreak investigations did not lead to any recalls of FSIS-regulated products or public health alerts (PHAs).

During FY 2023, FSIS investigated six outbreaks in coordination with local, state, and federal public health partners, five of which were multistate outbreaks. The total six outbreaks resulted in more than 100 illnesses and 30 hospitalizations. FSIS was alerted to five of the outbreaks by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and was informed of the sixth outbreak by a state public health agency.

Of the six outbreaks investigated by FSIS in FY 2023, three were caused by Salmonella (serotypes Newport, Saintpaul, and Typhimurium), and two by Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7. Beef products were the food product of interest for these Salmonella and STEC outbreaks.

The sixth investigation of FY 2023 involved a report of botulism that included commercially canned potted meat (containing chicken and pork) as a potential source; however, the case of botulism was determined not to be associated with a food source after investigation. Given botulinum toxin’s potential to cause severe illness, FSIS investigates reports of one or more botulism cases. FSIS underlines the importance of a quick response and good collaboration between state and federal public health partners, which allowed the agency to quickly determine that the suspected food product was not the source of the illness.

In light of the several outbreaks potentially caused by ground beef, including beef ground and packaged at retail stores, FSIS highlights the importance of retailers that grind beef complying with the recordkeeping requirements for all ground beef produced in-store. Ground beef produced in retail stores can complicate investigations if retail records do not clearly identify specific suppliers of beef.