News

Foodborne Illnesses From Imports Rise in US

Of the 39 reported outbreaks in the latest six-year period, seafood accounted for nearly half.
Of the 39 reported outbreaks in the latest six-year period, seafood accounted for nearly half.

Imported food is making Americans sick more often than before, according to new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That increase comes as the U.S. food supply is growing more dependent on foreign food sources.

The number of food poisoning outbreaks linked to imported food per year has more than doubled, to 6.5 in 2005-2010, up from 2.7 per year in 1998-2004, according to CDC data presented at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, Georgia.

Foodborne disease outbreaks linked to imports, 2005-2010

  • Total outbreaks:
    39 Food implicated:
    Fish:17 Spices:6
  • Region of origin: Asia:16 Latin America:11
  • Source: Foodborne disease outbreaks associated with food imported into the United States, 2005-2010. L. Gould, D. Morse, R.V. Tauxe; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA.

  • Total value of US food imports:
    2010: $86.1 billion
    2000: $42.7 billion

  • Source: US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service
    (http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FoodImport)

Of the 39 reported outbreaks in the latest six-year period, seafood accounted for nearly half. Spices were the next most common source. Most of the outbreaks involved food imports from Asia, with products from Latin America the number-two source.

“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,” says CDC epidemiologist Hannah Gould, Ph.D., the lead author of the study.

The study notes that 16 percent of the foods eaten in the United States are imported, including more than 80 percent of seafood.  The nation's food imports are growing at a rate of 10 percent a year, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The figures are not a big surprise to Erik Olson, director of food programs at the nonprofit Pew Health Group.

"The Food and Drug Administration is really only checking about 2 percent of the food that's imported into the U.S.," Olson says, "so a lot can go unchecked and problems may not be found."

Still, imports account for only a small fraction of all the foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States each year.

"The CDC is talking about somewhere north of a dozen outbreaks, when there are maybe a thousand or 1200 outbreaks annually from all sources," says Gavin Gibbons, spokesman for the National Fisheries Insititute, an industry trade group. "So, FDA appears to be doing a pretty good job."

New legislation aims to increase inspections and improve safety at foreign food manufacturing facilities.

New FDA rules to implement these changes are overdue, says Pew's Erik Olson, but he notes the agency may not get the funds it needs to follow through.

"Our concern is that, with all the new requirements for imports and all the new protections that are envisioned, that unless FDA gets a bump-up in resources, it's going to be very hard - if not impossible - for the agency to do its job."

FDA spokesman Doug Kares says the agency is working on a number of food safety rules that all work together and hopes to release them all as soon as possible.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs