HealthDay News — There has been an increase in the number and proportion of foodborne disease outbreaks associated with imported food, according to research published in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Noting that an increasing proportion of food is imported in the United States, L. Hannah Gould, PhD, from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues reviewed foodborne disease outbreak reports associated with imported foods.

The researchers found that there were 195 outbreak investigations that implicated an imported food during 1996 to 2014, resulting in 10,685 illnesses, 1,017 hospitalizations, and 19 deaths. There was an increasing proportion of outbreaks associated with imported foods relative to all foodborne disease outbreaks where a food was implicated and reported (1 percent during 1996 to 2000 versus 5 percent during 2009 to 2014). 

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There was an increase in the number of outbreaks associated with an imported food from an average of 3 per year during 1996 to 2000 to an average of 18 per year for 2009 to 2014. Aquatic animals and produce were responsible for 55% and 33% of outbreaks, respectively, and for 11% and 84% of outbreak-associated illnesses, respectively.

“The number of reported outbreaks associated with imported foods, although small, has increased as an absolute number and in proportion to the total number of outbreaks in which the implicated food was identified and reported,” the authors write.

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Gould LH, Kline J, Monahan C, Vierk K. Outbreaks of disease associated with food imported into the United States, 1996-2014. Emerg Infect Dis. 2017;23:525-528. doi: 10.3201/eid2303.161462