Sesame and Salmonella — the new macaroni and cheese?

This morning the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is announcing a recall of a sesame seed product (crackers and chips) due to Salmonella contamination.  Although no illnesses linked to the crackers have been confirmed, this recall one is yet another in a string of recalls linked to Salmonella-contaminated sesame seeds and products.

On January 22, 2008 CFIA announced a recall of bulk and packaged organic sesame seeds distributed under various brands in the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta and British Columbia due to Salmonella contamination.

In June 2007 CFIA warned that GD Sesame seed might have been contaminated with Salmonella and conducted a recall (and check out the related alerts under the press release title, there were an additional eight sesame/Salmonella recalls linked to this one in 2007).

In May Salmonella-contaminated sesame tahini was recalled by Whole Foods Market Inc.

Last January the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found Salmonella in sesame seeds at Woodhouse Commodities Inc. (and the president of the company was charged for allegedly not disclosing that some of the seeds were sold despite a product hold).

Last years major Salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter, and two big Salmonella outbreaks linked to almonds earlier in the decade demonstrate how resilient Salmonella can be on dried products. At IAFP in August 2005, I co-moderated a symposium at which Robert Tauxe of the CDC said sesame seeds and Salmonella was the next big thing on the international food safety horizon.  His prediction is looking pretty good.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a 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.