When it’s not the potato salad, it’s the ham

I used to eat a lot of ham sandwiches. It was the only lunch meat I’d take to school from about age 8 until I finished high school.

It’s still my preferred quick-service deli sandwich meat.

And we bake one at home a couple of times a year, making one large enough to have a few days of leftovers.

Photo Courtesy- National Pork Board

Ham can be risky though. In 1997 Neil Young missed a bunch of shows after cutting his finger while making a ham sandwich.

According to a paper by Huedo and colleagues in Food Pathogens and Disease, a couple of years ago over 40 Italian school kids got sick with salmonellosis linked to ham.

A multischool outbreak of salmonellosis caused by Salmonella enterica serovar Napoli was investigated in the province of Milan from October to November 2014, following an increase in school absenteeism coinciding with two positive cases. Epidemiological studies detected 47 cases in four primary schools: 46 children and 1 adult woman (51.4% males and 48.6% females, median age 8.9). From these, 14 cases (29.8%) were severe and resulted in hospitalization, including 6 children (12.8%) who developed an invasive salmonellosis. The epidemic curve revealed an abnormally long incubation period, peaking 1 week after the first confirmed case. Twenty-five available isolates were typed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis showing an identical pattern. The isolate belongs to ST474, an ST composed exclusively of Salmonella Napoli human strains isolated in France and Italy. Antibiotic resistance analysis showed resistance to aminoglycosides, correlating with the presence of the aminoglycoside resistance gene aadA25 in its genome. Trace-back investigations strongly suggested contaminated ham as the most likely food vehicle, which was delivered by a common food center on 21 October. Nevertheless, this ingredient could not be retrospectively investigated since it was no longer available at the repository. This represents the largest Salmonella Napoli outbreak ever reported in Italy and provides a unique scenario for studying the outcome of salmonellosis caused by this emerging and potentially invasive nontyphoidal serotype.

This entry was posted in Salmonella and tagged , , , by Ben Chapman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is an associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.