Chicago area market in a pickle; Salmonella confirmed in at least six patrons

Before I moved to North Carolina I didn’t know a whole lot of the specifics around home food preservation. I had never pickled, canned, or done anything preserve-y. My parents use to have a pickling party around Labour Day every year (the ‘u’ is in there because I lived in Canada then) but I never really got into it. In the past two years I’ve become a lot more involved with preservation stuff as the close to 100 extension agents across the state to whom I provide technical food safety support spend a pretty good chunk of their time teaching and answering questions about pickling, pressure canning and the likes.

I jumped into pickling last year and pressure canning this year so beyond the science aspect I have an idea of the practices – what’s tough and what might go wrong. Preservation is a bit like baking where recipes, ratios and processing times are important to create a final product that’s not going to paralyze or kill someone. Follow the rules and everything should be okay.

AP reports that something went wrong in the Chicago area and now a few folks are suffering from salmonellosis:

According to public health officials, six confirmed cases of salmonella has been linked to pickles purchased from the Assi Market in the Chicago suburb of Niles. Five people have been hospitalized.
Telephone calls to the market for comment Thursday were not immediately returned.
Health department officials say all confirmed victims of salmonella poisoning reported eating pickles made at the market and sold in plastic bags between July 25 and July 27, with a sell by date of Aug. 24.
Salmonella isn’t typically associated with fermented or acidified cucumbers (the heat processing of the product should kill it and the  pH is too low for growth of other pathogens). AP reports that the illnesses have been linked to pickles that were sold to customers in plastic bags. This outbreak looks like the result of a post-pickling issue; possibly dirty hands or equipment used to transfer the pickles to bags.
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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.