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Salsa, guacamole -- and a side order of food-borne illness

July 12, 2010|By Tami Dennis, Los Angeles Times

No one is suggesting, even remotely, that Americans give up salsa and guacamole. But it's worth noting the risks that they pose. New research from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does just that.

In analyzing outbreaks of food-borne illness, researchers found that almost 1 in 25 restaurant outbreaks between 1998 and 2008 could be blamed on these two offerings. Improper storage times or temperatures were likely a contributing factor, the report found; food workers themselves were sometimes a source of the contamination.

But the report also noted that many of the common ingredients -- peppers, tomatoes, cilantro – in these uncooked foodstuffs have been implicated in individual outbreaks. Put those ingredients together and you've got more than a zesty condiment; you've got a statistical target.

Here's the press release on the CDC salsa study, which was released Monday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases. And, perhaps more important, a primer on food-borne illness

courtesy of the CDC, and a chart of food-borne pathogens from the Food and Drug Administration.

And a whole lot of information on food safety, from FoodSafety.gov.

We'd just as well read up – and choose restaurants that practice safe food-handling practices, 'cause no way are we giving up guacamole, much less salsa.

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