The number of foodborne disease outbreaks related to imported food
appeared to rise in 2009 and 2010.
Nearly half of foodborne outbreaks were related to foods imported from
areas that previously had not been associated with outbreaks, according to a
study presented at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious
"It's too early to say if the recent numbers represent a
trend, but CDC officials are analyzing information from 2011 and will continue
to monitor for these outbreaks in the future," Hannah Gould, PhD,an
epidemiologist in the CDC's Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and
Environmental Diseases, said in a press release.
Gould and colleagues reviewed the CDC's Foodborne Disease Outbreak
Surveillance System to identify outbreaks from 2005 to 2010 that implicated
foods that were imported to the United States. There were 39 outbreaks and
2,348 illnesses related to imported food from 15 countries.
Almost half of the outbreaks occurred in 2009 and 2010. Seventeen of the
outbreaks were caused by fish, and six outbreaks were caused by spices,
including five from fresh or dried peppers. Nearly 45% of the foods causing the
outbreaks came from Asia.
"As our food supply becomes more global, people are eating foods
from all over the world, potentially exposing them to germs from all corners of
the world, too," Gould said. "We saw an increased number of outbreaks
due to imported foods during recent years, and more types of foods from more
countries causing outbreaks."
For more information:
- Gould L. Foodborne disease outbreaks associated with food imported
into the United States, 2005-2010. Presented at: International Conference on
Emerging Infectious Diseases; March 11-14, 2012; Atlanta.
Disclosures:Dr. Gould reports no relevant financial
Herbert L. DuPont, MD
In the 1950s there were less than 500 different items in the average
grocery store. Now there are 100-times the number of foods available. We have
most fruits and vegetables available year round. This has been possible by the
importation of foods from international regions. There is no practical way to
test the foods imported into the US for microbial quality. The study focuses on
the importance of imported foods to the problem of foodborne disease in the US.
The CDC and FDA through the FoodNet program for identification of trends of
enteric infection and through PulseNet program for detecting outbreak strains
of bacterial pathogens have reduced the problem of foodborne disease. We now
need to develop improved methods of screening foods for safety to prevent the
occurrence of foodborne disease.
- Herbert L. DuPont, MD
News Editorial Board member