In Japan, strategies for ensuring food safety have been developed without reliable scientific evidence on the relationship between foodborne diseases and food sources. This study aimed to provide information on the proportions of foodborne diseases caused by seven major causative pathogens (Campylobacter spp., Salmonella, enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli [EHEC], Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Clostridium perfringens, Staphylococcus aureus, and norovirus) attributed to foods and to explore factors affecting changes in these source attribution proportions over time using analysis of outbreak surveillance data. For the calculation of the number of outbreaks attributed to each source, simple-food outbreaks were assigned to the single-food category in question, and complex-food outbreaks were classified under each category proportional to the estimated probability. During 2007 to 2018, 8,730 outbreaks of foodborne diseases caused by seven pathogens were reported, of which 6,690 (76.6%) were of unknown source. We estimated the following source attribution proportions of foodborne diseases: chicken products (80.3%, 95% uncertainty interval [UI] 80.1 to 80.4) for Campylobacter spp.; beef products (50.1%, UI 47.0 to 51.5) and vegetables (42.3%, UI 40.9 to 45.5) for EHEC; eggs (34.6%, UI 27.8 to 41.4) and vegetables (34.4%, UI 27.8 to 40.8) for Salmonella; finfish (50.3%, UI 33.3 to 66.7) and shellfish (49.7%, UI 33.3 to 66.7) for V. parahaemolyticus; grains and beans (57.8%, UI 49.7 to 64.9) for S. aureus; vegetables (63.6%, UI 48.5 to 74.6), chicken products (12.7%, UI 4.6 to 21.5), and beef products (11.1%, UI 8.5 to 13.1) for C. perfringens; and shellfish (75.5%, UI 74.7 to 76.2) for norovirus. In this study, we provide the best available evidence-based information to evaluate the link between foodborne diseases and foods. Our results on source attribution for Campylobacter spp. and EHEC suggest that the strict health regulations for raw beef were reflected in the proportions of these diseases attributed to this food.
Source attribution proportions of foodborne diseases in Japan were estimated.
Source attribution was useful to guide interventions and evaluate their effect.
Strict health regulations for raw beef affected source attribution proportions.