Vitality

Tuna Rolls And Other Imported Food Products May Be Rife With Foodborne Bacteria

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Delicious as they are, these tuna rolls and other imported foods are rife with added dangers like contamination when compared to the food that is made here. Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

The plentiful availability of year-long fruits and vegetables, as well as that delicious sushi bar down the street, may come with some hidden costs, according to a news segment released by PBS Newshour this week. It may be more likely to make you sick.

As P.J. Tobia reports in his podcast "Shortwave," imported foods have increasingly become a staple of our diet. "The amount of food imported into the U.S. has nearly quadrupled since the 1990s, according to government statistics," Tobia wrote in a summary. "As a result, between 15 to 20 percent of the food we eat comes from other countries." Importation has especially been the driving force behind our fruit and vegetable supply, with 50 percent of it brought to us from overseas. Eighty percent of our fish also comes from outside the U.S.

Essential as they’ve become, these globally shipped foods are subject to unique risks that our domestic crops don’t have to worry about. Due to less-rigorous standards, they often contain pesticides, antibiotics, and other assorted chemicals that aren’t allowed in the U.S. because of their possible effects on the human body.

Almost paradoxically, they might also be more likely to nurse a rogues’ gallery worth of viruses, bacteria, and parasites that can cause disease in people. One particular example highlighted in Tobia’s report is that of “tuna scrape,” the excess meat left behind after the fillet is removed, which is used as the main ingredient for all your favorite tuna-themed sushi platters. Unfortunately, tuna scrape has also been behind numerous foodborne outbreaks, including a Salmonella incident in 2012 that left 425 people wishing they went for pizza instead.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the food that comes into the U.S. is randomly inspected as little as two percent of the time. In talking with Douglas Stearn, the Food and Drug Administration's director of the Office of Enforcement and Import operations, Tobia learned that while that number might seem frightening, the solution to our imported food woes won’t necessarily be increased surveillance. With only so much manpower to spare, Stearn explained it will take better communication between the U.S.,other governments, and the actual food importers to catch contamination before it goes abroad.

As Medical Daily previously reported, many in the public health community are depending on the pending implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act this year to help shore up these gaps in our food supply, including those that are imported. "In 2015, FDA plans to publish regulations for safer produce, processed foods, and imported foods, as mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act," said a May report on the recent prevalence of food-borne illness from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hopefully, these changes will place more pressure on manufacturers to ensure the cleanliness of our delicious tuna rolls before they reach stateside.

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