Food Poisoning Outbreaks from Imported Food Increasing: CDC

According to a recent report by federal health officials, food poisoning outbreaks throughout the United States that are caused by imported food are on the rise, with nearly half of all contaminated food coming from Asia. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported last week that it saw an increase in imported food poisoning cases in 2009 and 2010. The information was presented on March 14, at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta.

Between 2005 and 2010, there were a total of 39 imported food poisoning outbreaks, which sickened at least 2,348 people. However, 17 of those outbreaks, nearly half, came from 2009 and 2010 alone. Half of all outbreaks were also caused by food imported from areas that had not been previously associated with food poisoning outbreaks.

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The most common cause of imported food poisoning was fish, followed by fresh or dried peppers. About 45% of contaminated imported food came from Asia.

That fish leads the pack is no surprise. According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service, up to 85% of the seafood eaten in the United States is imported. Overall the imported food industry has grown from $41 billion in 1998 to $78 billion in 2007. Overall, an estimated 16% of food consumed in the U.S. is imported, the report stated.

The findings come as the FDA continues implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was signed into law in late 2010. Among other provisions, the law gives the FDA more power in forcing food recalls and increases resources for more inspections of foreign and domestic food production facilities. The law is widely regarded as the biggest change in food safety oversight in 70 years.


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