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ICEID: Leafy Greens Account for More Food-Borne Illnesses

Increase since 1973 not entirely attributable to increases in leafy green consumption

WEDNESDAY, March 19 (HealthDay News) -- Leafy greens account for an increasing proportion of food-borne disease outbreaks that is not entirely due to an increase in leafy green consumption, according to research presented this week at the 2008 International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta.

Michael Lynch, M.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed 10,421 food-borne disease outbreaks reported to the CDC between 1973 and 2006.

Between 1986 and 1995, the researchers found that the proportion of food-borne disease outbreak attributable to leafy greens increased by 59.6 percent over the previous decade, while leafy green consumption increased by only 17.2 percent. Between 1996 and 2005, they found that leafy green-associated outbreaks increased by 38.6 percent -- and that 69.4 percent of outbreaks resulted from leafy greens served at a restaurant -- while leafy green consumption increased by only 9 percent. During the entire study period, they found that 58.3 percent of leafy green outbreaks were caused by norovirus followed by Salmonella (10.4 percent) and Escherichia coli O157:H7 (8.9 percent).

"Contaminated leafy greens may cause restaurant-associated or widespread outbreaks," the authors conclude. "Efforts by local, state and federal agencies to control leafy green outbreaks should span from the point of harvest to the point of preparation."

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