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Recent Rise Seen in Foodborne Diseases From Imports: CDC
Date:3/14/2012

WEDNESDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- The number of foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States caused by imported food rose in recent years, according to a new federal government study.

Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed outbreaks reported to the CDC's Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System between 2005 and 2010. During those five years there were 39 outbreaks and more than 2,300 illnesses linked to imported food from 15 countries.

Of those outbreaks, nearly half (17) occurred in 2009 and 2010.

The most common types of imported food associated with outbreaks were fish (17 outbreaks) and spices (six outbreaks, including five from fresh or dried peppers). Asia was the source of most of the imported food products that caused outbreaks (nearly 45 percent).

The study was scheduled for presentation Wednesday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases, in Atlanta.

"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," lead author Hannah Gould, an epidemiologist in CDC's division of foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases, said in a news release from the American Society for Microbiology.

"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 noted. "We saw an increased number of outbreaks due to imported foods during recent years, and more types of foods from more countries causing outbreaks."

Between 1998 and 2007, annual U.S. food imports increased from $41 billion to $78 billion, and much of that growth was in fruit and vegetables, seafood and processed food products, according to a report by the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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