Salmonella in Cucumber Outbreak!

Imported Cucumber Outbreak

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 70 people in America have become sick because of a salmonella outbreak connected to imported Mexican cucumbers. The CDC reported that 14 people have been hospitalized and are trying to identify other people who could have been infected.

The source of the outbreak is thought to be Mexican supplier Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse of Culiacan, Mexico. The cucumbers were distributed by Tricar Sales Inc. of Rio Rico, Ariz., the CDC said.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stopped the imports by Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse unless they can prove that their cucumbers are not contaminated with salmonella. As of this point, California has reported the highest number of people who have fallen sick- 28. Among these people, the majority of them became sick between January 12th and April 6th. The outbreak reportedly reached its peak in early March but, the contaminated cucumbers have been pulled from shelves and are no longer on the market. But, the number of ill-stricken people could still rise. Due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported, more sick people could come forward.

Most persons infected with Salmonella bacteria develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. For example, the illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment. In some cases, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized- due to dehydration. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. Children younger than 5 years, older adults, and persons with compromised immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illnesses Salmonella.

Consumers should always follow safe produce handling recommendations like:

          Wash

o   Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after handling/preparing produce

          Prepare

o   Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking.

          Store

o       Refrigerate cut, peeled, or cooked produce as soon as possible, or within 2 hours.

o       Store produce away from raw meat, poultry, and seafood.

La Times

CDC

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Dear Sequester, Thank You For the Food-Borne Illness

Dear Sequester, Thank You For the Food-Borne Illness

Due to the recent government sequester that went into effect on March 1st, 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will administer fewer number of food safety inspections throughout the country. While American consumers may not feel the impact immediately, the loss of $209 million from its budget will force the FDA to conduct about 2,100 less inspections. This reduction in food inspections account for an 18% decline compared to last year. The funding loss will also delay the agency’s implementation of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act.

Not only are food-borne illnesses (FBI) of concern but, the approval of new drugs are as well. All of the programs within the FDA are at risk for being compromised because of the huge cuts that are taking place. The Sequester is becoming a really big hit and I think that more and more people will start to experience that, and in turn realize its significance.  The FDA does plan to prioritize programs that have the greatest effect on the public’s health, including disease outbreaks.

These next statistics are so ridiculous to me…. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 6 Americans, which equals 48 million people, develop a FBI each year. Out of these people, 3,000 people die and 128,000 are hospitalized. The FDA is already facing serious criticism, not to mention legal actions, for being slow to implement the food safety law. This law is geared towards refocusing the FDA’s efforts on prevention, instead of responding to crises. Since the law was signed into effect in 2011, it sat for 2 years with the White House Office of Management and Budget where it was rewritten in ways that weakened FDA’s oversight.  The FDA claims that they’re frustrated with this situation, as is the rest of the country.  The more time that goes by without this law going into effect, the more people that are at-risk of getting seriously sick.

But, I don’t believe that the FDA is as innocent as they might be leading on. Even before the Sequester, the FDA was able to inspect less than 2% of all food imports.

The FDA also addressed other key issues like:

        Plan B being sold over-the-counter to anyone, regardless of age.

        Drug shortages

        Outbreaks of fungal meningitis within pharmacies  

USA Today

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Food Trucks- Safe or Risky?

With an economical and attractive price, like arugula pizza or fish tacos, America’s 15,000+ food trucks are rolling into virtually every big city and a lot of small towns across the US.

The burning question: Is it safe to grab a bite to eat from a truck that cooks for hundreds in a space that’s a fraction of the size of your kitchen?

According to Health.com, yes, yes it is…

Just as the prices from their peers, though, some food trucks are better bets, food safety-wise, than others. Before you line up for your favorite lunchtime hoagie, here’s what you need to check for:

License

By law, food trucks need a license to operate so the local health department can track them for inspections. Why does this matter to you? Well, illegal operators tend to not worry as much about temperature and proper storage as an owner who knows an inspector could drop by at any time.

In many towns across the country, food-truck operators are required to post their license on the window, in a place where customers can see it.

Good grades

A number of cities require that food trucks place their latest inspection grade on the window that they serve food from. The worse the grade you see at your favorite food truck, the greater your chances are of getting a food-borne illness (FBI). If your city doesn’t post grades, they’re likely available on your local health department’s website.

Gloves

You might think your biggest worry is that the chicken or beef is undercooked, but you’re actually more likely to get sick because a food truck employee has bad hygiene. In fact, one of the leading causes of FBI is contamination from someone’s dirty hands.

Employees should be wearing gloves when handling your food, and changing them often, to avoid transferring bacteria from their hands to your food.

Gloves aren’t legally required everywhere, and an employee without them can handle food safely with utensils and regular hand-washing.  This is a good sign that food safety is taken seriously at a restaurant/food truck.

Dangling hair

If employees don’t pull back their hair, they’ll be constantly moving it out of their eyes, then touching your food, which could get contaminated with bacteria from their face. Messy hair can also be a sign that a business isn’t following the food safety rules.

Lukewarm food

“Temperature problems are one of the most common violations in food trucks,” says Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of public health for Los Angeles County. Salads and deli sandwiches should feel like they’re straight out of the fridge, while soup and burgers should be piping hot.

Messy sink

If you have a chance to peer inside the truck, try to find the sink. Look for soap, towels and a clear place for hand-washing. If the area is stacked up with dishes or there’s no soap in sight, where are employees going to wash their hands after coughing, sneezing or touching raw meat?

Food Trucks in my hometown of Harrisburg, PA to look out for:

MAD Sandwiches

          The Must-Try:  The Cuban sandwich stacked with pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and mayo on a crusty 12-in. Italian roll.

          Location: Forster St. and Commonwealth Ave. in front of the Keystone Building Tuesday-Wednesday and Walnut and Third streets in Harrisburg Thursday-Friday.

          MAD Sandwiches

A Moveable Feast

          The Must-Try:  Fish tacos with avocado and a honey wasabi and cilantro dressing are healthy and out of this world.

          Location: N. 2nd and Pine St. in Harrisburg on Friday and Saturday nights.

          A Moveable Feast 

Chef Ed’s Lunch MOB

          The Must-Try: Fish tacos are a signature item and worth ordering. The Asian hot pot with its noodles, flavorful broth and vegetables is pleasantly unexpected for food truck fare.

          Location: Near 400 block of Walnut Street in Harrisburg

          PA Lunch MOB

CNN: Are Food Trucks Safe?

HBG food trucks