Study: Illness from leafy greens soars

March 18, 2008 at 8:04 PM
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ATLANTA, March 18 (UPI) -- From 1996 to 2005 Americans ate 9 percent more leafy greens but leafy greens linked to illness increased by 39 percent, the U.S. government reports.

The increases marked a slowing of the trend recorded in the previous decade.

"During the 1986-1995 period U.S. leafy green consumption increased 17 percent from the previous decade," Michael Lynch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a researcher on the study, said in a statement. "During the same period, the proportion of all foodborne disease outbreaks due to leafy greens increased 60 percent."

The proportion of outbreaks due to leafy greens has increased beyond what can be explained by increased consumption, Lynch said.

Of the 10,000 foodborne disease outbreaks between l972 and 2006, 5 percent of all outbreaks were linked to leafy greens. Sixty percent were caused by norovirus, 10 percent by salmonella and 9 percent by E. coli, the report said.

"Contamination can occur anywhere along the chain from the farm to the table," Lynch said. "Efforts by local, state and federal agencies to control leafy green outbreaks should span from the point of harvest to the point of preparation."

The findings were presented at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta.

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