Food Safety Summit Food not Safe

According to Food Safety News website, 216 people who attended a Food Safety Summit in Baltimore this past spring were poisoned by the food served at that summit.

The report that was just released by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has determined that it was the chicken that was contaminated with Clostridium perfringens. Those who ate the chicken ended up with symptoms that ranged from diarrhea, cramps, nausea and vomiting.

While, in defense of the Food Safety Summit, this is the first time in its 16-year history anyone has contracted food poisoning, this incident is, nonetheless the definition of irony.

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Salmonella Outbreak and Safe Food Handling

With the onset of spring comes the much awaited fresh produce. With it, however, comes the reminder that we need to make sure we follow safe food handling procedures to avoid contamination.

The recent and still ongoing salmonella outbreak linked to raw tomatoes, as well as last year’s outbreak that was linked to lettuce should serve to remind us that a few precautions will keep us and our loved ones safe.

For the most part, simple comment sense is all that’s needed.

  1. Wash all produce. Even organic fruits and vegetables need to be rinsed under running water. Bacteria like Salmonella are transmitted through fecal matter from animals or humans. Because you have no idea who handled the produce or how it was handled before you acquired it you need to assume the worst. Cold, running water is sufficient. Even if you are peeling the fruit you need to wash it. You are handling the peel and the meat of the fruit and your hands can and will transmit the bacteria.
  2. Wash your hands, often. Use soap and water. Don’t assume that, because you washed your hands earlier, it’s okay now. If you are handling tainted produce you need to keep your hands clean to avoid transmitting the bacteria from one item to the next.
  3. Wash the cutting boards, countertops and utensils. Use different cutting boards, if possible, for meat and produce.
  4. Refrigerate sliced fruits and vegetables.
  5. Be Aware of and report symptoms. The Center for Disease Control tells us that symptoms (abdominal cramps, headache, fever, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting) will usually occur within 12 to 72 hours. Any of these symptoms should be reported to the local health officials. The more people who report and the sooner they do the easier it becomes to curtail and control the outbreak.

Additional pointers concerning the current Salmonella outbreak linked to raw tomatoes

The Associated Press recommends the following:

CHECK YOUR TOMATOES

The Food and Drug Administration is advising people to eat only tomatoes not associated with the outbreak: cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached and tomatoes grown at home.

Preliminary data suggest that raw red plum, Roma, or round red tomatoes are the cause, according to the FDA.

“The best thing to do if you have those certain types of tomatoes, throw them away or take them back the grocery store,” says Karen Blakeslee, an extension associate in the food science program at Kansas State.

For other tomatoes, wash thoroughly and cut away the part that is attached to the plant and the button on the other side, says Julie Miller Jones, a professor of nutrition and food science at The College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn. That part can carry a foodborne illness because it’s a hard area and organisms can attach themselves to it, she says.

Cooking tomatoes at 145 degrees will kill salmonella.

INQUIRE AT RESTAURANTS

Ketchup and cooked sauces are not affected by the outbreak. And several restaurants are not serving tomatoes — on Monday, McDonald’s said it had stopped serving sliced tomatoes in its U.S. restaurants.

Blakeslee advises finding out what the restaurant has done in response to the outbreak.

If you are really concerned, tell the restaurant to leave the tomatoes off the sandwiches and salads, says Jones. She says even if you remove them once your order comes, the food could still be contaminated.

For further information on the current outbreak:

http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/tomatoes.html

For further information on Salmonella:

http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/dfbmd/disease_listing/salmonellosis_gi.html