Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Imported-Food Outbreaks On The Rise

Here's some more cheerful news, outbreaks of illness connected to imported food have risen since the late 1990s.

The 39 outbreaks from imported food reported between 2005 and 2010 represent a small fraction of total cases of food-borne illnesses such as salmonella or E. coli, according to the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But the rise in imported-food outbreaks seems to be mostly from fish and spices, yes, spices.

The foods, including fish, oysters, cheese, sprouts and seven other types of products, were shipped from 15 countries. Nearly 45% of those foods came from Asia. 
Most people became I'll with salmonella or histamine fish poisoning, a bacterial disease contracted from eating spoiled dark-flesh fish that causes rashes, diarrhea, sweating, headaches and vomiting. The outbreaks led to 2,348 cases of illness.

Among the largest of those outbreaks was one in 2008 linked to jalapeƱo and serrano peppers from Mexico contaminated with salmonella. More than 1,400 people were sickened and more than 280 were hospitalized with salmonella in 43 states.

Other major outbreaks reviewed in the study were a 2007 recall of Veggie Booty, a puffed rice snack that was found to contain contaminated raw materials from China that led to 52 cases of salmonella in 17 states, and a 2010 outbreak of typhoid fever tied to frozen fruit pulp that originated in Guatemala.

The CDC estimates more than 3,000 Americans die annually from food poisoning and 48 million are sickened.

The amount of food imported has nearly doubled in the past decade, to 10.7 million shipments in 2009 from 5.6 million shipments in 2002, according to the Food and Drug Administration, which inspects shipments. Nearly 16% of food consumed by Americans comes from abroad, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Between December 2008 and April 2009 at least 79 people became ill with a strain of Salmonella from spices.

In the recall, numerous dry spices, including Cumin powder, Cloves, Crushed Chili powder, Dried Cloves Powder, Orange Peel Powder, Coriander Powder, Black Sesame Seed, Coriander, Pepper Corn Powder, Fennel Seed, White Sesame Seed, Fennel Seed Powder, Turmeric, Cinnamon Powder, Ginger Powder, Garlic Salt, Meat Tenderizer, Black Pepper Salt, Bay Leaves, Five Spices powder, Nutmeg, and Star Anise powder were all recalled for Salmonella contamination. 

While its all well and good to point fingers at importers from other countries, let's not forget, the USA has had its own share of food outbreaks lately.