The Food Safety Office of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a statement on March 14, 2012 that an analysis of their Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System data for 2005-2010 showed 39 outbreaks and 2,348 illnesses resulted from imported food. Of the 39 outbreaks, 17 occurred between 2009 and 2010 and 17 were associated with fish while 6 were due to spices (5 of these from fresh or dried peppers). Most outbreaks were caused by salmonella or histamine poisoning. In all 15 countries of origin were involved in these outbreaks, and nearly 45 percent of these in Asia.
Although this shows that outbreaks from imported food are increasing in the US, it must be seen against the background of a general increase in import volumes to the United States. In 2002, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported 5.6 million imported food shipments into the US. By 2009 this figure had risen to 10.7 million and the CDC has reported that as much as 85 percent of seafood eaten in the US is imported, and depending on the time of the year, 60 percent of fresh produce is imported as well. Overall, imports account for 16 percent of food consumed in the US.
US Congress demanded in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) increases to inspections of foreign facilities to tighten the safeguards of the US food import program. During fiscal year 2011, the FDA inspected around 1,000 of 254,000 registered foreign food facilities. As required by the FSMA the FDA will inspect more food facilities abroad during the 2012 to 2015 fiscal years.
According to import alert 16-105 (link esterno) the FDA automatically detains seafood products from notorious sources specified on a “red list” due to a history of outbreaks caused by decomposition or histamine formation. Similarly with import alert 99-19 (link esterno) they automatically detain certain food products potentially containing salmonella. Due to a change introduced by the FSMA in 2001, to detain the product the FDA no longer needs evidence a product can cause harm, illness or death, simply a reason to believe the product could cause harm, illness or death.