Valdosta Daily Times

August 1, 2013

Food-borne illness can be prevented

The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — The recent outbreak of the Cyclospora infection that has sickened hundreds in eight states this summer is just the most recent food-borne illness that has rocked the country in recent years. From listeria linked to cantaloupe to salmonella linked to peanut butter, there seems to be a new outbreak annually.

Although two states have traced infections back to bagged lettuce, tests are inconclusive in the other states, further hampered by the fact that the infected food could be ingested up to three weeks before the infection appears.

The most likely culprit is fresh fruits and vegetables, either grown in the southern region of the U.S. or imported from other countries.

Food becomes infected with the parasite after coming into contact with infected feces, either through contact with a person or contaminated water, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC says the parasite is not common on cold weather crops nor can it withstand temperatures of 60 degrees or warmer. Cooking the fresh fruits and vegetables will kill it as will washing all produce in warm, rather than cold, water.

As with the cantaloupe outbreak, the parasite can live on the outside skin or peel of the fruit or vegetable, so even if you are not eating that part, wash it in warm water anyway as a knife can carry the infection from the skin to the inside.

To be on the safe side, with all the unknown infections that can be carried by food-borne parasites, it’s recommended that you wash all fruits and vegetables, even outside, in warm water thoroughly or cook them after washing.

You can’t be too safe these days when eating at home or out, and it’s better to eat cooked veggies and fruits, and to wash all produce than to be sick and sorry later.