More than 500,000 people in the UK fall sick with food poisoning from known pathogens each year, new data from the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) has revealed. If unknown pathogens are included the total figure would almost double, officials said. The FSA report presents the most comprehensive picture of foodborne diseases in the country and their incidence.

According to figures, campylobacter is still the most common cause of food poisoning, accounting for about 280,000 cases per year. Approximately 80,000 people get sick with Clostridium perfringens, which makes it the second most frequent cause of foodborne diseases. Norovirus accounted for an estimated 74,000 cases. Even though Salmonella is not as common, it is the most dangerous, as it causes the largest number of hospital admissions — 2,500 per year, the report said.

The largest proportion of food poisoning can be put down to consumption of poultry meat, the FSA found. About 244,000 cases every year are linked to chicken and other poultry products. Other common sources of illness include vegetables (especially leafy ones), fruit, nuts and seeds, which cause illness in an estimated 48,000 cases, closely followed by beef and lamb, at about 43,000 cases.

According to the FSA, gathering complete information on the burden of food poisoning is very hard because many people fall sick but never report to their GPs. Naturally, such cases are not included in the report. The findings also highlight the importance of improving and implementing the national strategy to tackle campylobacter, as it is by far the most common cause of illness, FSA officials pointed out.