Food Briefs

Illness Traced to Intestinal Parasite

January 09, 1986|DANIEL P. PUZO | Times Staff Writer

An intestinal parasite previously thought only to infect calves is responsible for a diarrheal outbreak at a Northern California day-care center.

The parasite, Cryptosporidium , was isolated for the first time in the state from a number of preschoolers and their parents who had suffered a week of diarrhea, abdominal discomfort and loss of appetite, according to the Los Angeles County Public Health Letter.

Ten of 11 students at the center and three parents reported illnesses that were traced to Cryptosporidium.

The parasite can infect otherwise healthy individuals with symptoms that can last from several days to two weeks, according to the report.

Children at day-care centers and preschools are susceptible to this infection whenever staff members are required to change and dispose of diapers, the newsletter stated. The best means of prevention is through hand washing and good sanitation practices. No effective practices in such settings.

Although this report is the first evidence of the infection in California, Cryptosporidium has been found to cause "devasting diarrheal illness . . . in AIDS patients" in other states.

Cheese War--Tourist boards from around the nation learned long ago that promotion of a state's attractions is vital to luring visitors and their dollars. These promotions also have indirectly improved the states' images.

Now it seems that segments of the food industry are following suit.

One particularly high-stakes contest is being waged between two leading U.S. cheese producers: Wisconsin and California. Both states are in the midst of multimedia advertising campaigns aimed at raising consumer awareness of their respective Cheddars and Jacks, according to Hoard's Dairyman, an industry newsletter.

To date, as much as $11 million has been spent by milk advisory boards in the two states, which account for more than 42% of the nation's cheese.

The situation makes for an interesting competition pitting Wisconsin, the established champion, against California, the talented upstart. While surveys conducted before the promotion indicate that most Americans (92%) readily identify Wisconsin with quality cheese, they also are receptive to California cheeses.

The centerpieces of both programs are slogans that attempt to build recognition. Local dairy farmers are rallying around "Real California Cheese: Cheese as natural as California." In the Midwest, the battle cry is "Mmmm, Wisconsin Cheese . . . the cheese more people choose."

The newsletter reports that California's dairy farmers primarily are interested in increasing production to satisfy local demands and then begin building national sales. Wisconsin, however, is more concerned with maintaining its large share of the U.S. cheese market.

However, California cheese makers have a long way to go before reaching parity with their Wisconsin colleagues. First of all, California imports 80% of all the cheese consumed here while Wisconsin exports about 95% of its production. Furthermore, "The Dairy State" leads California in actual cheese production by about 5-to-1.

The Jersey Label--Interstate commerce contests are not limited to dairy items. Alaska, for instance, effectively has been promoting its seafood for years and has been scoring well in the quality contest due, in part, to a lack of competition from other states with large seafood industries.

Well, Alaska, those days are numbered.

New Jersey has launched a campaign to make the rest of the country aware of its "rich and varied catch of fresh fish." The program involves not only publicizing such local species as sea bass, scallops, clams, lobsters and oysters, but also enticing seafood processors to locate in New Jersey.

The campaign's theme, "New Jersey Fish are Fathoms Fresher," will be distributed in brochures and posters at food industry trade shows and to seafood brokers.

Taking Prunes Seriously--Yet another boon for the advertising industry is a decision by the California Prune Board to spend $4 million on its latest marketing campaign.

This time around the board will go beyond simply enticing consumers to eat prunes and will appeal to their health consciousness, according to California Farmer magazine.

The focus of the latest effort in newspaper advertisements will be to claim that prunes are not only low in fat, but are " the high-fiber fruit."

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