• Article

Evaluation of US Poison Center Data for Surveillance of Foodborne Disease

Introduction: Enhancing foodborne disease (FBD) surveillance and improving the timeliness of outbreak detection have been identified as public health priorities. Consumer complaint data have become increasingly useful for FBD surveillance and the detection of outbreaks. Calls to poison centers are a potential source of consumer complaint data. A retrospective analysis of data from the National Poison Data System (NPDS) (2000-2011) was undertaken to evaluate the value of data collected through the United States poison centers for detection of large national outbreaks and recalls. Methods: Demographic and clinical data were summarized. Prevalences of FBD calls were calculated and analyzed for time trends. Significant increases in daily call prevalences were identified, and dates of the increases were compared to the announcement of 18 national outbreaks/recalls. Results: Over the 12-year period, there were 433,788 unique calls self-reporting a suspected FBD exposure in humans. Overall, daily call prevalences decreased over time. Only about half of callers reported common gastrointestinal clinical effects. Of the 42 identified significant increases in call prevalences, none occurred within 14 days before an outbreak announcement; 7 occurred within 14 days after an outbreak announcement. Conclusions: Based on this analysis, there are significant limitations to using self-reported FBD exposures to NPDS as a source of information for FBD surveillance of large national outbreaks and recalls; however, a syndromic approach may yield different results and should be explored. Improved data collection and coordination with public health agencies may improve the ability to use NPDS data to monitor FBD in near real-time, identify potential outbreaks, and improve situational awareness.


Gruber, JF., Bailey, JE., & Kowalcyk, B. (2015). Evaluation of US Poison Center Data for Surveillance of Foodborne Disease. Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, 12(6), 467-478. https://doi.org/10.1089/fpd.2014.1907

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