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Toxoplasmosis in Italian Pregnant Women: Results of a Survey on Perception of Foodborne Risks

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Toxoplasmosis, an infection by the intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii, is a significant cause of fetal and neonatal mortality when acquired in utero and an important contributor to early and later childhood morbidity. Data present in the scientific literature are not univocal regarding the foodborne risk factors for T. gondii infection and the processing methods able to neutralize the parasite in food. We conducted a Delphi survey among experts to inquire as to their opinion on controversial issues regarding T. gondii risk factors, and we compared their position with that of a group of pregnant women in order to gather data for writing information guidelines on food safety during pregnancy. Between May 2005 and March 2006, we sent a questionnaire to 34 Italian experts in clinical medicine and food safety asking them to rank the risk of toxoplasmosis for different food items. We then compared their position with the results of the survey on T. gondii risk perception of pregnant women conducted in our Local Health Unit on the same issues. The risk as perceived by pregnant women and clinical experts appeared to be higher than that of food safety experts. The apparent overestimation of the risk in the group of pregnant women may induce erroneous or overcautious behaviors toward food safety and may induce women to exclude from their diet foods that are in fact not a risk for toxoplasmosis. The information collected with this study will contribute to the food safety information campaign for pregnant women and health professionals, although more studies on risk factors for T. gondii infection are recommended.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Centre for research and documentation in food safety (CeIRSA), Azienda Sanitaria Locale 8, Via Cara de Canonica, n 6-10041 Carignano (TO), Italy;, Email: 2: Centre for research and documentation in food safety (CeIRSA), Azienda Sanitaria Locale 8, Via Cara de Canonica, n 6-10041 Carignano (TO), Italy

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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