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Foodborne Illnesses from Leafy Greens in the United States: Attribution, Burden, and Cost.

Leafy green vegetables are a major source of foodborne illnesses. Nevertheless, few studies have attempted to estimate attribution and burden of illness estimates for leafy greens. This study combines results from three outbreak-based attribution models with illness incidence and economic cost models to develop comprehensive pathogen-specific burden estimates for leafy greens and their subcategories in the United States. We find that up to 9.18% (90% CI: 5.81%-15.18%) of foodborne illnesses linked to identified pathogens are attributed to leafy greens. Including 'Unknown' illnesses not linked to specific pathogens, leafy greens account for as many as 2,307,558 (90% CI: 1,077,815-4,075,642) illnesses annually in the United States. The economic cost of these illnesses is estimated to be up to $5.278 billion (90% CI: $3.230-$8.221 billion) annually. Excluding the pathogens with small outbreak sizes, Norovirus, Shiga toxin-producingEscherichia coli (both non-O157 and O157:H7), Campylobacter spp., and nontyphoidal Salmonella, are associated with the highest number of illnesses and greatest costs from leafy greens. While lettuce (romaine, iceberg, "other lettuce") takes 60.8% of leafy green outbreaks, it accounts for up to 75.7% of leafy green foodborne illnesses and 70% of costs. Finally, we highlighted that 19.8% of Shiga toxin-producingEscherichia coli O157:H7 illnesses are associated with romaine among all food commodities, resulting in 12,496 estimated illnesses and $324.64 million annually in the United States.

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