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Home / Health / Why E. coli gets into our salad – The Denver Post

Why E. coli gets into our salad – The Denver Post



Consumers love convenience salads, from prewashed baby spinach to bags of chopped Romain.

There is only one problem with these modern conveniences: They are regularly involved in food-borne outbreaks. [19659002] The recent nationwide incursion of E. coli has left 84 people in 19 states sick and 42 hospitalized. Most victims fell ill after eating chopped romaine lettuce from a farm near Yuma, Arizona

are rare but more common in certain types of food. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that leafy vegetables cause about one fifth of all foodborne illnesses.

And food safety experts say that Convenience Greens – the handy bags of chopped and prewashed salads ̵

1; pose an additional risk because they come into contact with more people and machines before they arrive on your plate.

Recent industry efforts and federal rules have attempted to reduce outbreaks. But the risks will never disappear completely, experts say.

"Unfortunately, we will always have these cases because consumers are getting used to this product," said Bill Marler, a well-known food safety lawyer who represents several patients disgusted by the Yuma salad. "The product has risks in my opinion."

Federal regulators have not yet uncovered the source of this latest salad breakout. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration urge consumers to throw away Romaine, which could come from Yuma, where most of the salad is grown during the winter season.

Most of the 84 people fell ill after eating restaurants that use prepackaged salad packed in their salads. This strain of E. coli, known as 0157: H7, produces a toxin that can disrupt liver function. The majority of victims are women, a reflection of the fact that women usually eat more salads.

Government agencies have long known that green and salads pose a particular food safety risk. According to a CDC analysis, leafy vegetables accounted for 22 percent of food-borne illnesses between 1998 and 2008. During this time, detailed data about the attribution data is available.

A recent analysis of outbreak data from 2013 showed that "vegetable varieties" – salads plus broccoli, asparagus, celery and some other vegetables – account for 42 percent of E. coli infections. In the past four months, E. coli infections in Canada and the USA associated with leafy vegetables have resulted in 151 diseases and two deaths.

"Leafy vegetables continue to be a problem, and we've been looking at leafy vegetables and fresh produce with concern," said Robert Tauxe, the director of the CDC department, which responds to food-borne outbreaks. "15 to 20 years ago, there was a big food safety problem near food of animal origin … But about 10 years ago, the production side has become more and more important."

Contamination can occur on the farm when birds make frequent flights over head or low lying fields flooded with contaminated water. E. coli can also be distributed by rural workers who do not wash their hands or by agricultural equipment with liquid manure.

Once the greens are picked, they move to a packing plant where they are more exposed to workers and more equipment. The product from multiple farms is often bagged in the same facility, further increasing the likelihood of cross-contamination.

While packers often wash lettuce with chlorine to kill pathogens, studies have shown that these sprays are only partially effective. The same goes for home-washing fruits and vegetables, Tauxe said, because pathogens can "cling" to the surface of products and even get inside a leaf or fruit after being cut open.

Killing step "that destroys pathogens for raw food as it is for a well-made burger or a glass of pasteurized milk.

" That's why it's so important that the people who grow food do everything they can to Minimizing contamination, "said Sandra Eskin, head of the food safety project at the Pew Charitable Trusts." Salad is growing in the dirt. It was eaten raw. There is no way to cook them to kill bacteria. "


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