New food safety infosheet: Over 100 ill after four outbreaks linked to pastries served in Illinois

We don’t often have Staphylococus aureus examples to share with food handlers, but the below story is a good one to use.  Four separate outbreaks occurring over about a month (demonstrates that this likely was a food safety culture breakdown as much as a microbiology problem). This story also highlights why it’s not a great idea to have cream filled baked goods sit at room temperature. It’s a bit of a guess since information on the specifics of the outbreak is hard to come by, but I see three factors potentially leading to this outbreak:

– Hygiene:  Improper handwashing after touching face/eyes/nose or sneezing on the fillings (or ingredients). Staphylococcus aureus is common on skin.
– Sanitation issues: Possibly the multiple outbreaks happened as a result of one poor hygiene event and contamination became resident on some equipment (a mixer blade, bowl, etc) that wasn’t cleaned/sanitized between use.
– Temperature abuse: regardless of contamination route the biggest failure here (assuming it was cream-filled pastries) is holding the products at temperatures suitable for growth of the pathogen and toxin formation.

The newest food safety infosheet, a graphical one-page food safety-related story directed at food businesses, is now available at
Food Safety Infosheet Highlights:
– Testing revealed Staphylococcus aureus in Rolf’s Patisserie products.
– Bakery products such as cream-filled pastries like cream pies and chocolate eclairs are often implicated in Staphylococcus aureus outbreaks.
– Outbreaks at bakeries are often linked to poor personal hygiene, contaminated equipment and temperature abuse.

You can download the food safety infosheet here.

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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.