Two outbreaks in 1990 of trichinosis (infection with Trichinella spiralis worm larvae) due to eating undercooked infested pork point up the need for consumers to continue guarding against this preventable, sometimes fatal illness. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta warned in its Feb. 1, 1991, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that the risk is particularly high when people routinely eat undercooked pork, as is the practice among Southeast Asian immigrants.
Of the 250 people at a wedding of Southeast Asians last July in Des Moines, Iowa, 90 developed trichinosis--the fourth outbreak since 1975 among the 900,000 immigrants in the United States. The illnesses were linked to pork sausage that was uncooked, which is the customary way to serve that food in Southeast Asian culture. To kill T. spiralis larvae, a person must cook pork until it is well done, to 66 degrees Celsius (150 degrees Fahrenheit).
Last November and December, four Virginia counties reported another outbreak of 15 sausage-related cases. One victim denied eating undercooked sausage but was a meat handler in the plant that processed the implicated meat. CDC received reports of 15 additional cases occurring singly in 1990. No deaths were reported.
Trichinosis symptoms are fever, muscle soreness, and upper-eyelid swelling. Lab tests show increased eosinophils (white blood cells).
CDC noted that the proportion of cases from commercial pork has declined since 1975, probably because of laws prohibiting feeding raw garbage to pigs, increased use of home freezers, and the practice of thoroughly cooking pork. On the other hand, there has been an increase in the relative importance of another source: wild game--including bear, boar and walrus.
Warning on Importing Drugs
Importing drugs from abroad except under certain circumstances is illegal, FDA warns, and potentially harmful. The agency is especially concerned with foreign versions of U.S.-approved drugs imported from abroad.
There has recently been some confusion over FDA's policy on drugy importation, with some claims that people can save money on drugs and doctor bills by "legally" importing foreign versions of drugs that have been approved in the United States. This is not true.
FDA does allow individuals to import drugs that are not approved in the United States if they meet specific conditions. The drugs must be for personal use only, in amounts to be used by one person for up to three months. This personal use policy does not extend to U.S.-approved drugs.
This policy allows people with serious conditions, such as AIDS, to import through the mail personal-use quantities of unapproved drugs that they feel might be helpful in treating their conditions. The policy is also intended to allow people to import through their personal baggage small quantities of medicines with which they may have been treated while traveling abroad.
The drugs cannot pose any "unreasonable or significant" safety risks, cannot be commercialized, and must be used for a serious condition for which no satisfactory treatment is available in this country.
According to FDA to otherwise import foreign drugs could pose an "unreasonable" risk to public health. Because the drugs may be of unknown quality with inadequate or foreign-language directions and because there is no medical supervision, severe adverse reactions, including death, could result.
The agency also warned consumers that to buy and use prescription drugs without the help of a doctor or other licensed health professional may violate state or local laws.
FDA will recommend automatic detention of imported products that appear to violate FDA's personal-import policy. People importing such products are informed in writing that the shipment has been detained and will not be released unless it can be shown to meet the personal-use entrace criteria. Those importing such products with the intent to sell may face civil and criminal penalties.
(For more information on FDA import policies, see "From Psyllium Seeds to Stoneware: FDA Insurance Quality of Imports" in the March 1991 FDA Consumer.)
COPYRIGHT 1991 U.S. Government Printing Office
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