Salsa, Guacamole a Key Source of Illness

ATLANTA, July 16 (UPI) — Fresh salsa and guacamole, especially served in retail food establishments, may be an increasing source of food-borne illness, U.S. health officials suggest.

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta finds nearly 1 out of every 25 restaurant-associated food-borne outbreaks from 1998-2008 can be traced back to contaminated salsa or guacamole — more than double the rate during the previous decade.

“Salsa and guacamole often contain diced raw produce, including hot peppers, tomatoes and cilantro, each of which has been implicated in past outbreaks,” Magdalena Kendall, an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education researcher who collaborated on the CDC study, said in a statement.

Although, the CDC first began food-borne disease surveillance in 1973, yet no salsa- or guacamole-associated outbreaks were reported before 1984, the report says. However, from 1984-1997, salsa- or guacamole-associated outbreaks accounted for 1.5 percent of all food establishment food-borne illness and from 1998-2008 it rose to 3.9 percent. Thirty percent of the salsa- or guacamole-associated outbreaks in restaurants or delis were due to inappropriate storage times or temperatures, while food workers were reported as the source of contamination in 20 percent of the restaurant outbreaks.

The findings were presented at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

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