Salsa, Guacamole Linked to Foodborne Illness: CDC

Nearly 1 in 25 restaurant-associated foodborne outbreaks with identified food sources between 1998 and 2008 can be traced back to contaminated salsa or guacamole, more than double the rate during the previous decade, according to research released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Monday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

"Fresh salsa and guacamole, especially those served in retail food establishments, may be important vehicles of foodborne infection," said Magdalena Kendall, an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) researcher who collaborated on the CDC study. "Salsa and guacamole often contain diced raw produce including hot peppers, tomatoes, and cilantro, each of which has been implicated in past outbreaks."

To better assess the role of these popular foods in outbreaks, Kendall and her colleagues searched all foodborne outbreaks reported to CDC for those with salsa, guacamole, or pico de gallo as a confirmed or suspected food vehicle and analyzed trends in the proportion of all outbreaks with identified food sources.

CDC began conducting surveillance for foodborne disease outbreaks in 1973, yet no salsa- or guacamole-associated (SGA) outbreaks were reported before 1984. Restaurants and delis were the settings for 84 percent of the 136 SGA outbreaks. SGA outbreaks accounted for 1.5 percent of all food establishment outbreaks from 1984 to 1997. This figure more than doubled to 3.9 percent during the 10-year period from 1998 to 2008.

Inappropriate storage times or temperatures were reported in 30 percent of the SGA outbreaks in restaurants or delis and may have contributed to the outbreaks. Food workers were reported as the source of contamination in 20 percent of the restaurant outbreaks.

"Possible reasons salsa and guacamole can pose a risk for foodborne illness is that they may not be refrigerated appropriately and are often made in large batches so even a small amount of contamination can affect many customers," Kendall said. "Awareness that salsa and guacamole can transmit foodborne illness, particularly in restaurants, is key to preventing future outbreaks."

Risk can be lowered by following guidelines for safe preparation and storage of fresh salsa and guacamole to reduce contamination or pathogen growth.

"We want restaurants and anyone preparing fresh salsa and guacamole at home to be aware that these foods containing raw ingredients should be carefully prepared and refrigerated to help prevent illness," Kendall said.

Product Showcase

  • Matrix's OmniPro Vision AI Collision Avoidance System

    OmniPro Vision AI is a state-of-the-art collision avoidance system that features NIOSH award-winning Visual Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. This highly accurate, powerful system identifies and alerts on pedestrians, vehicles and specified objects, ensuring safer facilities, mining operations and industrial sites. With its web-based cloud application, OmniPro Vision AI also logs and analyzes a wide range of data related to zone breach notifications. Operating without needing personal wearable devices or tags, OmniPro has visual and audible zone breach alerts for both operators and pedestrians. Read More

  • Safety Knives

    The Safety Knife Company has developed a quality range of safety knives for all industries. Designed so that fingers cannot get to the blades, these knives will safely cut through cardboard, tape, strapping, shrink or plastic wrap or a variety of other packing materials. Because these knives have no exposed blades and only cut cardboard deep, they will not only protect employees against lacerations but they will also save product. The Metal Detectable versions have revolutionary metal detectable polypropylene knife bodies specifically for the food and pharmaceutical industries. This material can be detected and rejected by typical detection machines and is X-ray visible. Read More

  • HAZ LO HEADLAMPS

    With alkaline or rechargeable options, these safety rated, Class 1, Div. 1 Headlamps provide long runtime with both spot and flood options in the same light. Work safely and avoid trip hazards with flexible hands-free lighting from Streamlight. Read More

Featured

Webinars