New Year, Same Food Dangers

Hold the salad, please. Or at least hold the romaine lettuce – a deadly outbreak of E. coli linked to this green leaf has been reported in the U.S. and Canada. At least 60 people have been infected and one person has died as a result of this outbreak.

I happen to be on a romaine lettuce kick myself, but suppose I’ll switch to another variety that hasn’t yet been contaminated. According to Food Safety News:

The risk is ongoing in both countries, officials report. Canadian officials are suggesting consumers in some provinces avoid all romaine lettuce. Government officials haven’t revealed any information about implicated suppliers, distributors or retailers in the romaine supply chain.

So that’s reassuring. It’s worth noting that while the Canadian government is advising against eating romaine lettuce, the U.S. CDC is still conducting their own research:

“Because we have not identified a source of the infections, CDC is unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food. This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available.”

Symptoms of E. coli may include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting and usually appear 1-10 days after exposure. People with weakened immune symptoms, young children, older adults, and pregnant women are most at risk for serious complications.

Antibiotic Use on Farms Drops

In unexpected but good news, the FDA announced this week that antibiotic sales for use on farm animals has dropped 10% since they began collecting data in 2009. Overuse of antibiotics is a major contributor to antibiotic resistance, which is going to have life and death consequences for all of us (mostly on the death side). Farms use antibiotics to prevent animals from getting sick, and they also have the nice side effect of making animals grow faster, which means more meat eating and more money. Though the 2016 antibiotic sales numbers are still higher than in 2009, it is a step in the right direction.

According to a statement from Avinash Kar, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “this course change provides a glimmer of hope that we can beat the growing epidemic of drug-resistant infections.”

Many large poultry company have made commitments over the past two years to reduce antibiotic use in chickens. Perdue Farms has led the way in this effort, and the vast majority of the company’s chickens now get no antibiotics at all.

Not the Papayas!

As my coworkers can attest, I love papayas. I can be frequently found in the kitchen scooping out the bulbous and slightly gooey black seeds, and generally making a bit of a mess.

The CDC is reporting an outbreak of salmonella that has been traced to Maradol papayas. So far, 47 people in 12 states have been infected, and one has died.

Symptoms of salmonella begin 12 to 72 hours after a person is infected and include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping. This can last about four to seven days, and most individuals recover without treatment. However, those who develop severe diarrhea may need to be hospitalized. Those who are very young, who are very old or who have compromised immune systems are most at risk for complications and severe cases of illness.

CNN: Deadly salmonella outbreak linked to papayas

Until the deadly papaya issue is resolved, I can recommend cantaloupe as a substitute, though of course it’s not quite the same. Cheers to fruit & food safety!

Pan-Frying Your Walrus on Medium? Better Turn Up the Heat!

Let’s get this out of the way: I think walruses are super cute. I think pigs are pretty cute too, but I have no qualms about eating bacon.

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The CDC has issued a warning about eating under cooked gaming meat.  There have been two outbreaks of trichinosis, caused by a roundworm, in the last year in Alaska. It should be noted that walrus can only be hunted by Alaskan natives for food or utility purposes. One family was diagnosed after eating walrus meat cooked to “medium”, another after eating it raw.

Trichinosis is usually linked with black bear or polar meat. Multiple outbreaks of trichinosis haven’t been associated with walrus meat since 1992. Symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, swelling of the face, fever, muscle soreness, and difficulty coordinating movement. It is treatable by prescription drugs.

Cheers to the walrus!

Is anything safe to eat? Spoiler alert: NO

Well, we have a lot to unpack here at PlagueGirl.  First off, food is no longer safe to eat.  This should have been obvious to everyone with the deadly listeria outbreak in cantaloupe and the E.coli outbreaks that have been linked to cookie dough, beef and spinach, just to mention a few.

But if for some reason all of this escaped you and you continued eating your raw cookie dough with your hands blissfully unaware, I am here to inform you it appears nothing is safe to eat anymore. (On a personal note, none of this has stopped me from eating anything, ever, but I like to live dangerously as PlagueGirl.)

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Recently, seemingly innocent bags of frozen berries have been linked to an outbreak of Hepatitis A.  At this point, some people expect their meat to have mad cow or E.coli or some sort of contamination, but their healthy bags of frozen berries?!  (On another personal note, I recently invested in a blender and have been making tons of delicious smoothies.  But like I said, I live dangerously.)  Click here for more info on Hepatitis A.

Next on our list of contaminated foods is CHEESE.  CHEESE! Cheese is both delicious and no stranger to contamination.  A recent outbreak of listeria has been linked to cheese sold at Whole Foods stores.  So far, it has been associated with the death of one person and the possible miscarriage of a pregnant woman.  Click here for more info on Listeria.

Upcoming on PlagueGirl: Coronavirus, Valley Fever, and whatever the next food-borne illness may be!

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