LISTERIA CONTAMINATION

Recent large food recalls in the U.S. have forced consumers to throw away hummus and ice cream that may be contaminated with the potentially deadly bacteria — listeria.

Tainted Blue Bell ice cream products are linked to eight listeria illnesses in Kansas and Texas; three of those who contracted the illness have died. Blue Bell has temporarily closed its facility in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and shut down a production line at its facility in Brenham, Texas.

Sabra Dipping Co. announced a recall this past week of 30,000 cases of its Classic Hummus due to possible listeria contamination, though no illnesses have been linked to that recall.


What is Listeria?Listeria is a hardy bacteria found in soil and water that can be carried by animals. It is often found in processed meats (like lunch meats) because it can contaminate a processing facility and stay there for a long period of time, and it can grow in the cold temperature of a refrigerator. It is also commonly found in unpasteurized cheeses and unpasteurized milk, and it is sometimes found in other foods as well — listeria in cantaloupes was linked to 30 deaths in a 2011 outbreak.

What are the consequences after contracting the bacteria?

The bacteria cause fever, muscle aches, gastrointestinal symptoms and even death.

Who are at risk?

Listeria generally only affects the elderly, people with compromised immune systems and pregnant women. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and serious illness or death in newborn babies. Healthy, younger adults and most children can usually consume listeria with no ill effects or mild illness.

How Can I Protect Against Listeria?

Throw away the food if you learn it has been recalled. Always clean surfaces that come into contact with food with hot, soapy water. With fruit, scrubbing is never a bad idea, but it may not rid produce of all contaminants. In the case of the cantaloupe, the listeria likely hid on the fruit’s thick, rough skin. Health officials think people may have been sickened when people cut into their cantaloupes, bringing listeria on the outside of the fruit to the inside.

The government says the listeria bacteria can be killed by heating food to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or until it is steaming hot just before serving it.

Why is Listeria so Deadly?

Listeria is less well-known than other pathogens like salmonella and E. coli, which cause many more illnesses in tainted food every year. But one in five people who get sick from listeria can die. The people who get sick from listeria are often already weaker and more vulnerable to disease.

Source: Business Insider

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I GOT “SPOILED” ON MY LAST DATE!

Dates on Foods: What Do They Mean?

Often people open up their refrigerators, cupboards, and cabinets only to find foods with questionable integrity. Some people trust their noses. Others look for visible signs of mold or deterioration. Figuring out the difference between the “expiration,” “sell by,” “use before,” and “use by” dates may leave some people scratching their heads.

While it is always better that you are safe rather than sorry, the following guidelines and information should help to take the guesswork out of determining whether or not your food is good to eat.

Expiration date

FOOD LABELS 5
The expiration date is the last day the food is safe to eat. If you have not consumed it by this date, throw it away. After the expiration date, it may cause someone to become sick if consumed.

Sell by date


This is the date that is printed for the supermarket. If the item has not sold by this date, the store should remove it from the shelf. It still may remain safe for consumption, if eaten after the marked date. Depending on the food, you still can store these items in your home for days to weeks after the sell by date.

Best if used before or by


The best if used before or by date means the food has a guarantee of peak freshness by this date, if it is properly stored. After that date, it will still remain safe to consume for a while, although it will have a lesser quality of taste, flavor, or nutrition.

Managing foods
For an exhaustive list of how to manage foods, visit the following Web sites:

Canned foods

FOOD LABELS 4
Making sure canned foods are safe is not as easy to determine as more highly perishable foods.

Follow this advice:

  • Many times the expiration date has to do with the actual can and not the food inside of it; many foods will outlast the can, but if the can starts to lose its integrity before the food, the expiration date will reflect this
  • If the can is dented at a double seam on the top or bottom of the can, throw it away immediately
  • If the can has rust on it, throw it away
  • If the can has a severe dent on the side that pulls the top or bottom of the can, throw it out
  • If the can is swollen, do not consume its contents

Dating requirements
The only foods that are mandated by the US Dept of Agriculture to include dating requirements are infant formula and baby food. Many foods do not have any date or indication of freshness to determine whether they are safe to consume. Some foods use a different system called Julian dates, whereby the month is indicated by a number or a letter and the year is represented with only one number, representing the last number of the year it was produced (for example, 2009 is marked as a 9).

While following these guidelines can alleviate some of the confusion about whether a food is safe or not, the best advice probably is “when in doubt, throw it out!”

LAST POST FOR SEPTEMBER: FOOD SAFETY MONTH!

FOODBORNE ILLNESS: THE TEN RISKIEST FOODS!

SEPTEMBER – FOOD SAFETY MONTH!

These 10 foods regulated by the FDA have accounted for 40% of all foodborne illnesses in the United States since 1990. These foods have cause 50,000 illnesses, some ending in death. However, many cases of foodborne illness are never reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that for every case of clinically diagnosed and reported salmonellosis, another 38 cases are never proven and/or reported. The list included the following foods.

1. Leafy greens

SPINACH LEAVES
Accounting for 24% of all illnesses in the FDA’s top 10 list, leafy greens most often are contaminated with either E coli, norovirus, or salmonella. Top reasons for contamination include unwashed hands of a handler, improper preparation, and cross-contamination. Contact with wild animals, manure, or contaminated water prior to harvest also is cause for concern.

2. Eggs

HARD BOILED EGGS
Most illnesses from eggs are caused by salmonella. Regulations for cleaning and inspecting eggs have helped matters considerably, but if chickens are infected with Salmonella enteritidis, the chicken’s ovaries become infected and eggs are contaminated before the shells are even formed. In July 2010, regulations were changed for producers with 50,000 or more egg-laying hens to include controls to prevent Salmonella enteritidis. Catered events, prisons, and buffets are where most cases of salmonella from eggs originate, likely because of improper holding temperatures.

3. Tuna


Many people have become ill from the scombroid illness after eating contaminated tuna. Fresh tuna decays quickly after it is caught, and if appropriate measures are not taken, tuna begins to release natural scombrotoxins. Cooking, freezing, smoking, curing, or canning cannot kill the toxin. More than 65% of illness related to tuna ingestion is tied to eating the fish at restaurants. Tuna also is linked to salmonella and norovirus.

4. Oysters

oysters
Oysters sometimes are harvested in water that is contaminated with norovirus. If oysters are eaten raw or undercooked, they can lead to gastroenteritis. The most dangerous pathogens found in oysters are vibrio, which can kill immunocompromised people.

5. Potatoes


Outbreaks from foodborne illness usually are linked to dishes such as potato salad, which contain many other ingredients. Most illnesses are caused by E coli or salmonella, making it obvious that cross-contamination is a common problem when preparing dishes that contain potatoes. Shigella and Listeria monocytogenes, which also are linked to potato-containing dishes, point to improper handling and preparation by infected food preparers and improper cleaning of surfaces, such as deli counters.

6. Cheese

cheese
Cheese can become contaminated, most often with salmonella, during production or processing. The vast majority of infections are caused by consumption of unpasteurized cheese. Pregnant women should avoid soft cheeses, which can carry Listeria monocytogenes, which frequently cause miscarriage even if the mother does not have any symptoms of illness. People who are immunocompromised and elderly people also are advised to avoid soft cheeses because of the risk of contracting listeriosis.

7. Ice cream

icecream
The most common reason for ice cream causing illness is people using undercooked eggs when making ice cream at home. Soft ice cream, like soft cheeses, can become a breeding ground for Listeria monocytogenes. The most famous case of contaminated ice cream, however, was caused by a truck that was used to haul both raw, unpasteurized eggs and pasteurized ice cream mix.

8. Tomatoes

tomatoes
Salmonella can enter tomato plants through the roots or flowers and then can easily enter the fruit. It is very difficult to kill the salmonella without cooking the fruit. Norovirus also is sometimes found in tomatoes. Seventy percent of all illnesses associated with tomatoes were contracted in restaurants.

9. Sprouts

sprouts
The CDC and the FDA strongly recommend that the elderly, children, and immunocompromised individuals avoid consumption of raw sprouts, which may carry E coli or salmonella because of a variety of reasons, including improper handling.

10. Berries

MICROBES 7
The most common cause of illness related to berry ingestion is the cyclospora parasite, which does not resolve itself without a round of antibiotics. A 1997 outbreak of hepatitis A, during which thousands of students became ill, was tied to consumption of frozen strawberries. The contamination may have occurred because of an infected farm worker from Baja, CA.

BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR OWN FOOD PREPARATION AND HANDLING.  WATCH OUT AT PICNICS AND FAMILY GET-TOGETHERS WHERE FOODS MAY BE LEFT AT ROOM TEMPERATURE FOR LONG PERIODS.  THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ORDER WHEN EATING OUT TOO – KEEP THESE TOP TEN ILLNESS CAUSING FOODS IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND!

SEPTEMBER IS FOOD SAFETY MONTH

TRY THIS QUIZ TO SEE HOW MUCH YOU KNOW ABOUT FOOD SAFETY!
Don’t let the pictures influence your choices!

1. Which of the following foods are most likely to grow microorganisms?

a. Moist food
b. Dry food
c. Salty food

2. Salmonella is least likely to occur in which food?

MICROBES 3

a. Chicken salad
b. Cantaloupe
c. Cocoa powder
d. Tomatoes

3. Store meat, poultry, and fish at:

a. Temperatures below 32° F
b. Temperatures below 41° F
c. Temperatures below 45° F

MICROBES 4

4. Cook poultry to a minimum internal temperature of:

a. 145° F
b. 165° F
c. 185° F

5. Brewed tea can spoil if left at room temperature for more than a few hours.

MICROBES 6

a. True
b. False

6. Never thaw food under running water.

a. True
b. False

7. Listeriosis is especially dangerous for pregnant women. Which of the following foods is most likely to cause listeriosis?

MICROBES 7

a. Strawberries
b. Eggs
c. Deli foods

8. Honey or syrup that has developed yeast is most likely to:

MICROBES 5

a. Appear pink
b. Display a blue-green, fuzzy growth
c. Become concave and sunken in the center of the container

Answers

1.   a. Moist food
2.   c. Cocoa powder
3.   b. Temperatures below 41º F
4.   b. 165º F
5.   a. True
6.   b. False (as long as the water is 70° F or lower)
7.   c. Deli foods
8.   a. Appear pink