Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented the research at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta last week. From 2005-2010, 39 outbreaks and 2,348 illnesses were linked to imported food from 15 countries and of those, nearly half (17) occurred in 2009 and 2010, they found.
“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,” said Hannah Gould, an epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases and the study’s lead author.
Fish were the number one cause of outbreaks linked to imported food, implicated in 17 outbreaks, while six were linked to spices, including five from fresh or dried peppers, the CDC said.
However, the increase in outbreaks caused by imported foods is linked to increased import volumes. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, US food imports grew from $41bn in 1998, to $78bn in 2007.
“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.