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Posted on: July 26, 2018 at 7:48 am
Last updated: July 31, 2018 at 9:20 am

We’re not exactly sure why, but there have been an alarming number of dangerous food outbreaks over the last year or so. Cases of food contamination are becoming more commonplace and stealing headlines, which is why everyone needs to know how to keep themselves and their families safe.

Remember the nationwide listeria outbreak in October 2017 that hit big-name retailers such as Walmart, Costco, Target, Sprouts Farmers Market, and Sam’s Club? Those were pre-packaged frozen products, too! How about the Spring 2018 E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce that spanned 36 states, infected 210 people, hospitalized 96, and even killed five?[1] Or the parasites in McDonald’s salads that caused 160 people to fall ill?

Now more than ever, the conscious consumer needs to be extra vigilant or else they could end up with a potentially fatal bacterial infection – one that was completely avoidable…

The Foods Most Likely to Cause Food Poisoning and Other Illnesses

If you have never been personally affected by food poisoning caused by listeria, E. coli or any other type of contaminant, consider yourself lucky. Everyone assumes “it will never happen to me”, but every year, 1 in 6 Americans will contract some form of food poisoning.[2]

According to the CDC, “each year 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.”

Broadly speaking, you can trace the root cause of food poisoning back to three sources: bacteria (e.g., listeria, E. coli, salmonella), parasites (e.g., toxoplasma), and viruses (e.g., norovirus). Out of the three, bacteria are the cause most associated with foodborne illnesses.

The likelihood of foods causing poisoning or other illnesses depends on how and even where they are produced and prepared. If not cleaned or cooked properly with washed hands and a clean surface, the risk of sickness skyrockets. This is particularly true for foods including:[3]

  • Raw or undercooked sushi and other food products
  • Hot dogs and deli meats
  • Ground beef
  • Unpasteurized cheese, milk, and juice
  • Raw, unwashed fruits and vegetables

However, there are certain dangerous food outbreaks that U.S. health officials are warning people to avoid for the time being.[4] Failing to do so could result in intestinal infections, viruses, and even parasites…

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8 Foods Linked to Ongoing Outbreaks That Could Make You Sick

Raw Turkey

The CDC has linked 90 cases of salmonella infection to raw turkey which go back to November 2017. Although health officials have yet to identify the specific product or where it comes from, it has affected people in 26 states. The fact that most patients have eaten numerous turkey products has made it challenging to pin down the exact source of the outbreak.[4-6]

Pasta Salad

Salmonella is also the culprit for people sickened by pasta salad from Hy-Vee, a Midwestern grocery store chain, that was produced between June 1 and July 13. Any packages you may have will have expiration dates between June 22 and August 3.[4]

McDonald’s Salads

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After a cyclospora outbreak across in 10 states, McDonald’s has temporarily stopped selling their packaged salads in 14 states at 3,000 locations. They include Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota, Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri. According to the CDC, they have confirmed 163 cases of this parasitic infection. If you purchased and ate a McDonald’s salad in any of those states since May 14, 2018 and have had diarrhea, health officials suggest seeing your healthcare provider.[4,7]

Imported Crab Meat

If you recently purchased fresh crab meat from Venezuela, the FDA is warning against it. Starting on April 1, 2018, twelve people have reported falling ill due to an outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a naturally occurring bacteria found in seawater. In an outbreak announcement, the FDA stated that “[imported crab meat] is commonly found in plastic tubs and may be labeled as ‘pre-cooked.’”[4,8,9]

Cut Melons

Unfortunately, this includes fruit salads, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew from retailers including Walmart, Kroger, Walgreens, Sprouts Farmers Market, Costco, and Whole Foods. So far, the salmonella-infected fruits have affected 60 people, around half of whom required hospitalization. Health officials warn that if you live in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin… you should be extra cautious.[4]

Kellogg’s Honey Smacks Cereal

If there is a box of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks in your kitchen, a popular cereal that has infected 100 people in 33 states with salmonella, the FDA is warning people to throw it out immediately to be safe. First recalled on June 14, 2018, consumers received a second warning after the agency learned that boxes may still be on grocery store shelves. According to the FDA, “retailers cannot legally offer the cereal for sale and consumers should not purchase Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal.”[4]

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Swiss Rolls

This sweet treat may be delicious, but Flowers Foods has recalled them after learning that the whey powder used may be contaminated with salmonella. Fortunately, no illnesses have been reported. However, they suggest avoiding buying Swiss Rolls nationwide from Mrs. Freshley’s, Food Lion, H-E-B, and Baker’s Treat for the time being.[4,10]

Vegetable Trays

Del Monte Fresh vegetable trays have been linked to 237 cases of cyclospora illnesses. With the ability to contaminate food or water, Cyclospora cayetanensis is a microscopic parasite that can cause intestinal illness when ingested. Although it’s unclear which food tray ingredient is contaminated and responsible for these illnesses, they contained broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and dill dip. So, if you live in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois or Indiana, you should make sure this weekend’s vegetable tray hasn’t been recalled.[4]

How the FDA Regulates Food Production to Prevent Outbreaks

A world without salmonella, listeria, E. coli, and whatever else would be great! But it simply isn’t realistic. There are a couple of things that the FDA does to help ensure foodborne illnesses and contaminants are kept to a minimum for both domestic and imported foods.

First, they have programs in place to monitor contaminants including pesticides, naturally occurring toxins, and pathogens. Second, they assess potential exposure and risk of foodborne illnesses.[11]

However, it is still extremely important to do your own part in preventing foodborne illnesses!

Whether you’ve been affected by a bacteria, parasite or virus, the symptoms are generally quite similar:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea (watery and/or bloody)
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever (usually mild or low-grade)
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches

Visit the following links to learn how to prevent and protect against food poisoning:

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[1] E.coli (Escherichia coli). (2018, June 28). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2018/o157h7-04-18/index.html

[2] Food Safety. (2018, February 16). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html

[3] Food Poisoning: Types, Symptoms, & Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/food-poisoning#prevention

[4] These foods linked to ongoing outbreaks might make you sick. (2018, July 21). Retrieved from https://fox59.com/2018/07/21/these-foods-linked-to-ongoing-outbreaks-might-make-you-sick/

[5] Howard, J. (2018, July 19). Salmonella outbreak in 26 states tied to raw turkey. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/19/health/salmonella-outbreak-raw-turkey-bn/index.html

[6] Salmonella. (2018, July 23). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/reading-07-18/epi.html

[7] Parasites – Cyclosporiasis (Cyclospora Infection). (2018, July 24). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/cyclosporiasis/outbreaks/2018/b-071318/index.html

[8] Vibrio parahaemolyticus. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/vibrio-parahaemolyticus

[9] Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Outbreaks – FDA Advises Consumers to Avoid Potentially Contaminated Fresh Crab Meat Imported from Venezuela due to Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/Food/RecallsOutbreaksEmergencies/Outbreaks/ucm613500.htm

[10] Flowers Foods Issues Voluntary Recall On Mrs. Freshley’s And Other Brands Of Swiss Rolls And Captain John Derst’s Old Fashioned Bread. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.flowersfoods.com/news/news-releases/2018/07-18-2018-212009723

[11] Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Foodborne Illness & Contaminants. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/foodborneillnesscontaminants/default.htm

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