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NOTE: A surveillance case definition is a set of uniform criteria used to define a disease for public health surveillance. Surveillance case definitions enable public health officials to classify and count cases consistently across reporting jurisdictions. Surveillance case definitions are not intended to be used by healthcare providers for making a clinical diagnosis or determining how to meet an individual patient’s health needs.

CSTE Position Statement(s)

  • 10-ID-13

Clinical Description

Definition: An incident in which two or more persons experience a similar illness after ingestion of a common food, and epidemiologic analysis implicates the food as the source of the illness.

Symptoms of illness depend upon etiologic agent. Please see the "Guidelines for Confirmation of Foodborne-Disease Outbreaks".1

Laboratory Criteria For Diagnosis

Diagnostic laboratory criteria depend upon the etiologic agent. Please see the "Guidelines for Confirmation of Foodborne-Disease Outbreaks".1


There are two exceptions: one case of botulism or chemical poisoning linked to a food item constitutes a notifiable outbreak.

Data sharing: Notification to CDC of confirmed cases of foodborne disease outbreaks (preferably using the CDC National Outbreak Reporting System) is recommended.2


  1. CDC. Guide to confirming an etiology in foodborne disease outbreak. Available at
  2. CDC. National outbreak reporting system (NORS). Available at

Related Case Definition(s)