New report links increasing numbers of foodborne illness to imports

Fish and spices top a new list of imported foods linked with outbreaks of foodborne illness in the US in 2009 and 2010. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta presented the results of their study at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases on March 14.

The study also found that almost half of the foods that caused illness were imported from regions that had not previously been associated with foodborne disease.

Over the five-year period examined in the study, fish accounted for a majority of the outbreaks, with 17 out of 39. Spices were linked to 6 outbreaks, of which 5 were traced to fresh or dried peppers.

The report also found that almost half of the foods were imported from Asia. That figure, it seems, shouldn’t be all that surprising; an increasing proportion of food sold in the US is imported. Up to 60% of food consumed in the US was produced in another country, depending on the season. Roughly 85% of seafood is imported.

The Food and Drug Administration is working to improve reporting methods and regulatory standards. The researchers hope that such measures will lead to a greater understanding of the factors contributing to outbreaks of foodborne illness, permitting a more focused program of prevention.

The full report can be found here.

As in many other cases in which a defective product resulted in injury or death, manufacturers need to be held accountable for unsafe practices in food production and transportation.