Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
Nearly 300 people in 18 states have been sickened by a salmonella bacteria that has been traced back to contaminated chicken packaged by Foster Farms, according to an alert released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Salmonella poisoning is especially dangerous for people with compromised immune systems and young infants. More from The Boston Globe:
While some USDA employees have been furloughed due to the partial government shutdown, food safety inspectors at beef and poultry plants are still conducting routine inspections and investigating illness outbreaks.
Consumers can identify raw Foster Farm chicken products associated with the outbreak by looking for the following numbers on the package: P6137, P6137A, and P7632.
The products were mainly distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington State, the USDA said, but no recall has been issued because the food safety service has been “unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period.”
Instead, consumers should remember to handle all raw meat and poultry in a safe manner, cooking chicken thoroughly until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 °F. They should also avoid cross contamination of raw chicken juices with other foods like fresh produce that won’t be cooked before consuming; for example, they should use separate cutting boards for preparing these foods.
Another tip recommended by food safety scientists: Don’t wash raw poultry before preparing it since that can foster the spread of bacteria.
“If you wash it, you’re more likely to spray bacteria all over the kitchen and yourself,” said Drexel University food safety researcher Dr. Jennifer Quinlan in a new video campaign she launched to get people to stop rinsing raw chicken.
Image: Raw chicken, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
E. coli and salmonella are feared and avoided by families everywhere, who take great pains to make sure their kitchens are clean, and that food is safely stored and prepared. But a new study reveals some surprising spots–like refrigerator water dispensers–where germs lurk in disturbing concentrations. From The New York Times:
The report found that some of the areas people considered most likely to be contaminated, like microwave keypads, were not, while some they had never thought of, like refrigerator water dispensers and the rubber gasket on most blenders, were among the worst.
The findings suggest that many people who try to keep a tidy kitchen may be overlooking some of the more problematic areas, said Lisa Yakas, a microbiologist with NSF International, a nonprofit public health group that published the report. The goal of the study, Ms. Yakas said, was not to frighten the public, but to provide some insight on the best ways to reduce the spread of food-borne illness in the kitchen.
“What we really wanted to do was to just make them more aware of these places that they might not have even thought of,” Ms. Yakas said.
Research suggests that the kitchen is a particularly important place to practice good hygiene. Nearly 10 million cases of food poisoning occur in the United States every year, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five outbreaks of food-borne illness are caused by food that people eat in their homes. Leafy vegetables and other plants are responsible for more than half of all cases, and about a third of all the fatal cases are caused by contaminated poultry.
Most healthy adults can fight off such infections. But the elderly, the very young and people who are pregnant or have compromised immune systems have a higher risk of complications.
“Any one of these populations could be represented in your home at some time, so it’s important to protect them,” Ms. Yakas said. “As a mom with two little kids at home, it’s something that I worry about.”
For the new study, the researchers took swabs of a variety of common kitchen items in the homes of 20 families living in the suburbs of Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich. They also asked people in the homes to rate the items that they thought were most likely to be contaminated and most in need of regular cleaning.
The microwave keypad was the area they considered the dirtiest. But it was not. Instead, the researchers found that refrigerator ice and water dispensers, spatulas, blender gaskets – the rubber seal at the base of the blender that helps prevent leaks – and refrigerator meat and vegetable compartments had the highest germ counts.
Water and ice dispensers, which provide moist environments that can breed micro-organisms, were often found to contain yeast and mold. That can be a particular hazard for people with allergies.
Image: Refrigerator water dispenser, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
A common pet frog, the African tree frog, may be the culprit in an outbreak of salmonella, a potentially deadly bacteria that causes severe intestinal upset. An investigation by public health researchers the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and published in the journal Pediatrics, found the link. More from CNN:
A group of health professionals make up the Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak Investigation Team, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recently, the team has been examining the effects of African dwarf frogs on people’s health.
“Amphibians and reptiles should never be kept in homes with children less than 5 years old or with people who have immune deficiencies,” said lead author and CDC public health advisor Shauna Mettee Zarecki. This includes day care settings and nursing homes, she said.
This investigation is the first to report a nationwide Salmonella outbreak associated with amphibians.
The team examined an outbreak of that strain from 2008 to 2011 and identified 376 cases of Salmonella in 44 states to use in a matched case-control study. The control group was made up of people with recent Salmonella infections other than the outbreak strain, and the cases group included people with the outbreak strain infection. About 70% of those infected were children younger than 10 years old.
Image: Tree frog, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 17th, 2012
In the third expansion of a food recall that began with certain nut butters and later grew to include peanut and other nut butters sold at Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joe’s, and other markets, whole peanuts have now been recalled amid fears of salmonella contamination. MSNBC.com has more:
The Dallas-based company [Hines Nut Co.]recalled bags of salted jumbo Virginia in-shell peanuts on Monday for possible contamination with salmonella. The peanuts were processed by Sunland Inc. of Portales, N.M.
There are no reported illnesses from the Hines products.
Nearly 2 million pounds of peanuts are involved in the Hines recall, with the bags sold nationally in supermarkets such as Wal-mart and Dollar General stores. The salted jumbo peanuts were distributed from April 12 to Oct. 12, according to officials at the Food and Drug Administration.
The packing information begins with the words ‘BEST BUY’. The recall lot numbers are as follows, located on the fourth line of the ‘BEST BUY’ statement:
S03718, S03699, S03724, S03753, S03765, S03784, S03798, S03806, S03810, S03824, S03826, S03840, S03863, S03886, S03907, S03928, S03933, S03938, S03950, S03958, S03967, S03972, S03978, S03989, S03991, S04012, S04025, S04042, S04054, S04066, S04097, S04109, S04123, S04134, S04141, S04141, S04165, S04200, S04201, S04211, S04229, S04236, and S04247.
Consumers who have purchased the peanuts are urged not to eat them, but to return them to the place of purchase.
Image: Peanuts, via Shutterstock
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Monday, October 8th, 2012
After more people have been sickened by suspected salmonella contamination in peanut butter and other nut butters made by New Mexico-based Sunland, Inc, the recall of the company’s products has been expanded for the second time in as many weeks. Initially, the recall affected products sold at Trader Joe’s and some smaller grocery chains. Then last week, the recall was expanded to products that are stocked at Whole Foods Markets, Target, and other retailers.
Now, news of even more expansion to the recall, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that 35 people have been sickened by contaminated products, 5 in the last week alone. Affected by the recall are all products produced at the company’s Portales, New Mexico plant dating back to a “best if used by” date of March 2010. CNN.com has more:
According to a FDA statement, the expanded recall “covers all previously identified Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, Cashew Butter, and Tahini products as well as Roasted Blanched Peanut Products. Several varieties of flavored butters and spreads, including Thai Ginger Butter, Chocolate Butter and Banana Butter, are also being included in this expanded recall.”
Health officials in Washington state have traced the same strain of salmonella that sickened 35 people nationwide to an open jar of Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Peanut Butter collected from the home of one of the people infected. This firmly establishes a link between a specific Sunland product and this salmonella outbreak, something the company spokeswoman Katalin Coburn said hadn’t been established by last week.
FDA inspectors have also found salmonella on surfaces at the Sunland processing plant, although further testing is required to confirm if it’s the same strain of Salmonella, called Bredeney, that has infected nearly three dozen people in 19 states and has led to eight hospitalizations so far.
Families should discard any unused recalled products, or return them to the stores where they were purchased. For more information on whether specific products are under recall, call Sunland directly at 1-866-837-1018.
Image: Peanut butter, via Shutterstock
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