Diseases from imported food on the rise: CDC

PHOTO: Diseases from imported food on the rise: CDC

Food-borne disease outbreaks caused by imports seemed to rise in 2009 and 2010, with fish and spices the most common sources, the Centers for Disease Control said on Wednesday.

Almost half of the outbreaks, or localized epidemics, pointed to foods imported from areas that had not been linked to outbreaks before, the CDC said in a statement.

"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," said CDC epidemiologist Hannah Gould, lead author of a report on the upturn.

From 2005 to 2010, 39 outbreaks and 2,348 illnesses were linked to imported food from 15 countries. Of those outbreaks, 17 occurred in 2009 and 2010.

Overall, fish was the most common source of imported food-borne disease outbreaks at 17, followed by spices with six outbreaks, including five from fresh or dried peppers.

Nearly 45 per cent of the imported foods causing outbreaks came from Asia, the CDC said.

Gould's report was presented on Wednesday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta.

According to the Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, food imports grew to US$86 billion (S$109 billion) in 2010 from US$41 billion (S$52 billion) in 1999.

Much of that growth has occurred in fruit and vegetables, seafood and processed food products.