• Roots of Foodborne Illness

    Health Threats from Domestic and Imported Produce

    Roots of Foodborne Illness

    Health Threats from Domestic and Imported Produce

    Speakers: Michael Doyle (University of Georgia), Robert Tauxe (CDC), Robert Buchanan (FDA), Chuck Gerba (University of Arizona), Ewen Todd (MSU)Presented by the Emerging Infectious Diseases Discussion Group
    Reported by Marilynn Larkin | Posted May 30, 2008


    The number of reported foodborne outbreaks attributable to fruits and vegetables has been rising in recent years, both in the United States and abroad. It's difficult to determine the reason for the rise in outbreaks because virtually every aspect of the produce industry has changed during the past 20 years, said experts who met at the Academy on April 21, 2008, to discuss foodborne illness.

    In the United States, domestic produce is contaminated mainly by animals, leading to E. coli and Salmonella infections; imported foods are also associated with human pathogens—e.g., Shigella, Norovirus, and Hepatitis A. New infections are emerging in other countries, such as foodborne Chagas disease.

    Produce can become contaminated by infected food workers; in the farm environment; through irrigation waters; during processing and packaging, particularly of ready-to-eat items. Food safety efforts are ongoing, but much remains to be done; ideally, scientists need to find ways to prevent contamination before it occurs.

    Photo: Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph showing Salmonella typhimurium (red) invading human cells. By permission, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH.