Salsa and Guacamole Causes of Foodborne Disease

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Salsa and Guacamole Increasingly Important Causes of Foodborne Disease

Nearly 1 out of every 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 today 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," says
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

To better assess the role of these popular foods in outbreaks, Kendall
and her colleagues searched all foodborne outbreaks reported to the 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 began
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 ten-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 says. "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

"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," says

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The International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases is
organized by the CDC, the American Society for Microbiology, the Council
of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, the Association of Public
Health Laboratories and the World Health Organization. More information
on the meeting can be found online at


0 Vanessa 2010-07-23 12:41
Excellent article. In modern times there are far too many sources contributing to food borne contamination.
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