Blame those leafy green salads for food-borne epidemics

March 18th, 2008 - 4:57 pm ICT by admin  

New York, March 18 (IANS) This one is hard to believe, but a new study says the proportion of epidemics linked to the consumption of leafy vegetables has substantially increased in the last 35 years. What’s more, researchers at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that the increase in food-borne epidemics has far outstripped the increase in consumption of green leafy vegetables.

Prompted by the high profile E. coli outbreaks associated with spinach and lettuce in 2006, researcher Michael Lynch and his colleagues analysed over 10,000 food-borne disease outbreaks reported between 1973 and 2006.

About five percent of all food-borne outbreaks were found to be linked to leafy greens. Most of these were caused by norovirus, but a few were caused by salmonella (10 percent) and E. coli (nine percent).

“Given recent experiences that was not a total surprise. What was interesting was when we compared the numbers to consumption data,” said Lynch.

Comparing per capita consumption of leafy greens with the proportion of food-borne outbreaks, Lynch found that “during the 1986-1995 period, leafy greens consumption increased 17 percent from the previous decade, the proportion of all food-borne disease outbreaks increased 60 percent.”

Reinforcing the link, leafy green vegetable consumption increased nine percent during 1996-2005, and associated outbreaks increased 39 percent.

Findings of the study were presented Monday at the 2008 International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, Georgia.

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