New Zealand sees spike in Yersinia pseudotuberculosis; bagged carrots and lettuce investigated

Over 100 illnesses of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis have been seen by New Zealand health authorities in the past couple of weeks and investigators are trying to find the common source. According to the New Zealand Herald, packaged produce is at the top of the list.

Yersinia isn’t one of the most prevalent foodborne illnesses; in North America it has often been linked to dishes made of intestines or kitchens where intestines are being prepared.images-10

Nationwide, more than 100 people have been reported as suffering from symptoms mimicking appendicitis, including from the Bay of Plenty.

Toi Te Ora has recorded five people from the Bay of Plenty suffering from the stomach bug, caused by the bacteria Yersinia pseudotuberculosis.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said at this stage it was still trying to determine what caused the outbreak.

However, MPI said there was a credible link that food was the likely source.

Overseas outbreaks of yersinia pseudotuberculosis had been linked to contaminated fresh vegetables and fruit, contaminated water and animal contact.

“This is an unusual cause of food poisoning. That’s why it sticks out – to have more than 100 cases around the country within two weeks is most unusual,” he said.

“It appears to be related to consumption around carrots and packaged lettuces but we haven’t managed to track an actual suspect yet.”

Dr Shoemack said Toi Te Ora was working collaboratively with Wellington health officials in finding the exact cause behind the outbreak but there was still a lot of information unknown.

“We’ve spoken to each of the cases about what food they consumed in the days prior to getting ill and it appears the most likely risk factors are the carrots and lettuces which are pre-packaged.

For now, he reminded people to take extra care with personal hygiene when preparing and consuming food. Plus washing any raw fruit and vegetables thoroughly (although if prewashed, this step may not reduce risk at all -ben).

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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.