Foodborne Illness on the Rise

CHICAGO - A new report suggests increased travel and imports of foreign-grown foods have led to a jump in parasitic infections caused by contaminated food.

Researchers, who have written the new peer-reviewed Scientific Status Summary Parasies and the Food Supply report, suggest more attention to foodborne illness and parasites is necessary to protect those who are immunocompromised.

The report says there are more than 100 known parasites that can be found in the food supply and that more than 12 outbreaks of foodborne illness since the 1980s can be directly tied to the microscopic bugs.

The most prevalent parasite -- Toxoplasma gondii -- is responsible for causing more than 2 million cases of food and beverage-borne illnesses in the United States annually. The parasite is also responsible for more than 20 percent of all deaths related to foodborne illness.

The report describes new technologies underway to prevent and identify parasites. Methods in development include UV irradiation, hydrostatic pressure and ozone inactivation.

The report was sponsored by the not-for-profit scientific society The Institute of Food Technologists. For additional information, log on to: www.ift.org.

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