Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Contaminated Produce Is Top Food-Poisoning Culprit

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Contaminated Produce Is Top Food-Poisoning Culprit

Article excerpt

An analysis by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) of 3,500 food-poisoning outbreaks shows that contaminated produce is responsible for the greatest number of individual foodborne illnesses. CSPI still enthusiastically recommends eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, not less. But it also recommends instituting better food safety practices on farms in America and abroad to help reduce the risk to consumers.

"Dirty irrigation water and the use of untreated manure can help spread animal pathogens to fruits and vegetables," said CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal. "While consumers can help minimize risk by careful washing, much of the responsibility for food safety must begin on the farm."

In November 2003, an outbreak of hepatitis A was traced back to green onions imported from Mexico. The outbreak resulted in 555 illnesses and three deaths--many of which CSPI says could have been prevented with better practices on the farm and a more responsive surveillance system.

Although produce was responsible for the greatest number of individual cases of foodborne illness, seafood was responsible for the largest number of outbreaks. Fish can harbor naturally occurring toxins such as scombrotoxin and ciguatoxin, while shellfish can play host to microbial hazards such as Vibrio bacteria or noroviruses. …

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