To determine the epidemiologic characteristics of foodborne disease outbreaks traced to poultry, we reviewed records of all 352 such outbreaks reported to the Center for Disease Control 1966–1974; 217 (62%) outbreaks were traced to turkey, 129 (37%) to chicken, 5 (1%) to both turkey and chicken, and 1 (0.3%) to cornish hen. Outbreaks from poultry accounted for 12% of all foodborne disease outbreaks reported from 1966 through 1974, but the number and percentage has been decreasing since 1969; these outbreaks involved 30,606 cases of gastrointestinal illness (20% of all cases of foodborne disease) and 14 deaths. Food-service establishments were responsible for mishandling the food in 79% of outbreaks, homes in 19%, and food-processing establishments in 2%. In 85% of the outbreaks, the food-handling error was storage of food at improper holding temperatures. In outbreaks reported 1972–1974 in which an etiologic agent was indentified, Salmonella spp. were responsible for 44%, Clostridium perfringens for 26%, and Staphylococcus aureus for 26%. The number of reported outbreaks from turkey increased dramatically during the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season. The downward trend in the number and percentage of poultry outbreaks since 1969 may reflect public education efforts.

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