Raw is risky: Fresh herbs can be contaminated

I’m not a fan of the guac, ever since a hungover former partner spewed vile smelling green stuff at the side of the road decades ago.

And I’m wary of fresh herbs, based on previous outbreaks.

So is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which on Feb. 23, 2018, revealed details on just how many bacteria are hiding in fresh, store-bought herbsThe agency plans to continue testing herbs through 2019 to thoroughly assess their “rates of bacterial contamination.”

The plan is to test 1,600 samples of items “typically eaten without having undergone a ‘kill step,’ such as cooking, to reduce or eliminate bacteria.” These items include fresh cilantro, parsley, and basil.

This first round of results revealed that of the 139 fresh herb samples tested, four tested positive for salmonella and three contained E. coli bacteria.

The Packer noted the testing found  no pathogens in the U.S. herbs versus imported herbs.

In the same period, the FDA found that three of the 58 U.S.-processed avocado products that were tested had listeria, and one of the 49 imported samples had listeria.

From 1996 to 2015, the FDA linked 2,699 illnesses and 84 hospitalizations to fresh herbs.

The FDA also plans to sample processed avocado for similar reasons – from 2005 to 2015, 525 illnesses were linked to avocados in 12 separate outbreaks. Of 107 avocado and guacamole samples in the initial results, four contained listeria. Avocados, the FDA notes, “have a high moisture content and a non-acidic pH level, conditions that can support the growth of harmful bacteria.”

Salmonella risk sparks massive recall of UK supermarket dips

Fears over salmonella in guacamole and other dips have sparked a massive product recall affecting Tesco, Waitrose, Co-op and Sainsbury’s.

guacamoleNottinghamshire shoppers are being told to take the affected products back to the stores where they were bought – and they will be given a refund.

The Food Standards Agency said Bakkavor was recalling a number of its chilled guacamole products due to the possible presence of the bacteria.

A spokesman for the agency said: “The use-by dates for the products are up to and including July 2, 2016, and have been recalled as a precautionary measure because the products might contain salmonella. Symptoms caused by salmonella usually include fever, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps.

“The affected products have been supplied to the following UK retailers: Co-op; Tesco; Sainsbury’s; and Waitrose.

“Bakkavor is recalling the products from the retailers listed above. Product recall notices have been displayed in the retail stores that sell the products, explaining to customers the reason for recall and the actions they can take if they have bought the affected product.

Avocado vomit tales and Listeria

I don’t like avocados.

There was this one time my ex-wife made an avocado dip to take to my relatives and was so drunk or hungover she barfed up all this green garlicly stuff at the side of highway 400, headed to Barrie.

guacamoleIt smelled awful.

Maybe she had Listeria (doubtful).

Listeria monocytogenes can grow and multiply in various food matrices and cause severe human illness. Apart from the influence on consumer health, L. monocytogenes contamination of ready-to-eat (RTE) food products causes major economic losses due to product recalls.

Control of foodborne pathogens in RTE food products is a challenge, specifically in foods that cannot undergo a heat-treatment during processing. The aim of this study was to develop control strategies for the management of L. monocytogenes in an avocado processing facility, additional to a quality control system. An in-house monitoring system (IMS) was established to test specifically for Listeria spp. in the final products and processing environment, including floors, equipment, work areas and personnel. Guacamole and environmental samples were collected and tested on-site for Listeria with the ISO 11290-1 method.

Based on the prevalence of Listeria, the facility introduced new strategies in processing to counter cross contamination. Results from the 2014 guacamole production season showed almost complete eradication of Listeria spp. in final products (0.17%, n = 1170) and the processing facility (0.79%, n = 1520). This is a major achievement since the highest incidence of Listeria spp. over a period of five years was measured at 11.39% (n = 948) in the final product during the 2013 season and 13.44% (n = 1927) in the processing facility in 2011.

These results indicate that successful management of Listeria spp. in an avocado processing facility can be accomplished with in-house monitoring of the listerial population and subsequent adjustments to the processing system.

So it probably wasn’t Listeria. Just booze.

Successful management of Listeria spp. in an avocado processing facility

Food Control, Volume 62, April 2016, Pages 208–215

Amy Strydom, René Vorster, Pieter A. Gouws, R. Corli Witthuhn



Chewing on a band-aid isn’t fun

I spend most of my time at the hockey rink. Between Jack’s practices/games on weekends and my adult beer league games on Mondays and Wednesdays, my non-food safety social interactions revolved around the ice.

Sometimes my two worlds cross-over.

IMG_8203One of my hockey buddies sent me a citizenfoodsafety submission (above, exactly as shown) that exemplifies a physical (and potentially biological) food safety hazard. The story that goes along with the picture goes like this: my friend’s colleague was eating some guacamole, sensed something chewy and pulled a band-aid out of her mouth.

Superbowl guacamole dip food safety tips

Superbowl pregame coverage started at something like 6:00 am this morning and it’s on in the background at my house. Between helping the kids with Lego building and coloring I’ve seen segments on a former player who is now a high school principal; an NFL player who chose listening to an hour of Nickleback over “swimming everywhere you go”; and, an insightful interview with half-time performer Katy Perry where she reported that Seahawks (and former N.C. State) Quarterback Russell Wilson likes pizza.

And I’ve heard about deflated balls about 900 times.Bill-Belichickx-large

Capitalizing on the Superbowl hysteria, Debbi Snook of cleveland.com has some football party food safety tips and a recipe for turkey chili from LeBron Jame’s former chef (how’s that for a title). The risk reduction tips aren’t bad (and are even in context for a party with guacamole). But the article fails to point to a safe temperature (165F) for ground turkey.

Did you know that fruit and vegetables pose 48 percent of foodborne illnesses? That means those veggie platters, dips and any cream-based foods deserve some extra scrutiny to keep your guests safe.

-Instead of refilling the same bowl of guacamole, divide it among a few smaller bowls to replace the one that becomes empty.

-Wash your hands frequently when cooking, and dry them on a clean towel.

-Ask someone else to cook if you’re under the weather.

– Wash your avocados with cold water and a scrub brush before peeling and slicing (for quality reasons, mainly -ben).

– Avert “double-dipping” violations by placing serving utensils such as spoons and tongs at each serving bowl.

Careful with the guac: emergence of salsa and guacamole as frequent vehicles of foodborne disease outbreaks in the US 1973–2008

American researchers report fresh salsa and guacamole often contain diced raw produce, are often made in large batches, and are often poorly refrigerated, which may make them prone to contamination that can cause foodborne illness.

The safety of salsa and guacamole is increasingly important as these foods gain popularity. Since 1973, local, state, and territorial health departments guacamole2have voluntarily reported foodborne disease outbreaks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System (FDOSS) using a standard reporting form. FDOSS used paper-based reporting for 1973–1997 and switched to electronic reporting for 1998–2008.

We reviewed all reports of outbreaks during 1973–2008 in which salsa or guacamole was reported as a vehicle. We found 136 outbreaks in which salsa or guacamole was reported as a possible vehicle, which resulted in 5,658 illnesses.

Of these 136 salsa- or guacamole-associated (SGA) outbreaks additional possible food vehicles were reported for 33 (24%) outbreaks. There were no SGA outbreaks reported before 1984.

Among reported outbreaks, most were caused by norovirus (24%), nontyphoidal Salmonella (19%), and Shigella (7%). Eighty-four percent of outbreaks were caused by foods prepared in restaurants or delis; of these, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA19% reported ill foodworkers, and 29% reported improper storage as possible contributing factors.

Among all foodborne disease outbreaks with a reported food vehicle during 1984–1997, 26 (0.9%) of 2,966 outbreaks were SGA, and during 1998–2008, 110 (1.4%) of 7,738 outbreaks were SGA. The number of reported foodborne disease outbreaks attributable to salsa or guacamole increased in the United States from 1984 to 2008, especially in later years, and especially in restaurants.

Fresh salsa and guacamole require careful preparation and storage. Focused prevention strategies should reduce the risk of illness and ensure that these foods are enjoyed safely.

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. April 2013, 10(4): 316-322

Magdalena E. Kendall, Rajal K. Mody, Barbara E. Mahon, Michael P. Doyle, Karen M. Herman, and Robert V. Tauxe

Le guacamole a mal tourné : un plat à base d’avocat impliqué dans une éclosion à E. coli O157:H7 dans un restaurant du Texas

Translated by Albert Amgar

Onze personnes ont été rendues malades par E. coli O 157:H7 en avril après avoir mangé au Jason’s Deli à Killeen, Texas. Le département de la santé du Comté de Bell a dit que l’origine de la maladie était le guacamole, probablement à cause d’une contamination croisée en cuisine.

Les représentants du département de la santé du Comté de Bell ont rapporté qu’au cours de la préparation, des aliments contaminés crus sont vraisemblablement entrés en contact avec le guacamole ou les autres ingrédients via des ustensiles ou des mains sales.

Le guacamole a été fait le 13 avril et a été utilisé dans des sandwichs California Club.
E. coli O157:H7 peut entraîner une maladie grave, comprenant des diarrhées sanglantes. Environ 15 pour cent des cas entraînent des dommages aux reins ou d’autres problèmes sur le long terme.

Une poursuite contre Jason’s Deli a été déposée.

Que pouvez-vous faire :
• Nettoyer et désinfecter toutes les surfaces (planches à découper, comptoirs) entre la préparation des aliments crus et celle des aliments prêts à être consommés.
• Utiliser différents ustensiles ou différentes planches à découper pour les aliments crus et les aliments prêts à être consommés, si le nettoyage et à la désinfection ne sont pas réalisés entre les deux utilisations.
• Se laver et se sécher les mains après manipulation des aliments crus. Les mains contaminées par des aliments crus peuvent être des véhicules importants de la contamination croisée.

Pour plus d’informations, contactez Ben Chapman sur benjamin_chapman@ncsu.edu ou Doug Powell sur dpowell@ksu.edu

Nuevo Folleto Informativo: Plato con guacamole implicado en brote 
de E. coli O157:H7 en Texas

Traducido por Gonzalo Erdozain
Resumen del folleto informativo mas reciente:
– 5 casos confirmados, 2 hospitalizaciones y 11 casos sospechosos relacionados 
con Jason’s Deli en Killeen, TX
– El Departamento de Salud del Condado Bell presume que la fuente del brote pudo haber sido guacamole, causado por contaminación cruzada en la cocina.
– Limpie y desinfecte todas las superficies (tablas de cortar, mesadas) entre preparación de alimentos crudos y alimentos listos para comer.
Los folletos informativos son creados semanalmente y puestos en restaurantes, tiendas y granjas, y son usados para entrenar y educar a través del mundo. Si usted quiere proponer un tema o mandar fotos para los folletos, contacte a Ben Chapman a benjamin_chapman@ncsu.edu.
Puede seguir las historias de los folletos informativos y barfblog en twitter
@benjaminchapman y @barfblog.

It was the guacamole: E. coli O157:H7 outbreak traced to Texas restaurant

I do not like guacamole.

It can be traced back to a hangover this girl had 25 years ago, and she threw up green chunky stuff.

Sorenne had a cupcake with bright green icing yesterday and had a bright green poop this morning.

In April 2011, at least 11 people became sick after eating at a local restaurant and doctors confirmed five were positive for E. coli O157:H7.

KXXV reports officials with the Bell County Public Health District initially declined to identify the specific restaurant the complaints originated from, citing Texas laws meant to protect businesses and individuals under investigation.

News Channel 25 filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act. Acting upon the request, Bell County health officials provided five-page report Friday detailing the investigation.

According to that report, the contamination was traced to the Jason’s Deli located at 3213 East Central Texas Expressway in Killeen.

Through a process of elimination, investigators were able to trace the food, then the ingredient the bacteria likely came from. A total of 37 different food items were tested. The most likely source was identified as a batch of guacamole made on April 13th, used as spread for the "California Club" sandwich.

Investigators further concluded that the guacamole was likely contaminated on-site, possibly by an object or employee during the food preparation stage. The bacteria was not spread through food distributed by Jason’s Deli Distributors or Deli Management, Inc.

Now that the case is closed, Jason’s Deli corporate spokesperson Daniel Helfman tells News Channel 25, "Over six weeks ago, the county looked into a situation. They came back and ruled out Jason’s Deli as a source of the issue. Our food and restaurant were never in question, therefore everyone should feel very safe about eating at Jason’s Deli."

If some corporate spokesthingy is that clueless about food safety basics, I wouldn’t eat there.