Stories tagged salmonella

Don't do it: A spike in salmonella cases is linked to people kissing their pet chickens.
Don't do it: A spike in salmonella cases is linked to people kissing their pet chickens.Courtesy Crossville News
Health departments this spring have been reported outbreaks of dozens of salmonella cases. But they're not tied to tainted food. The cases are occurring in people who kiss or cuddle with their backyard chickens. So keep your lips off the chickens, okay?


hamburger: what is it really made from?
hamburger: what is it really made from?Courtesy PixelAndInk
No fries. I’m watching my diet.

Yeah, I said ammonia burger. Haven’t you heard that your favorite fast food beef gut –bomb was most likely treated with ammonia? It’s not like the teenage fry cook at the burger joint reaches under the counter and grabs the bottle of floor cleaner to splash on a sizzling grill. However, there is still extra ammonia used to treat a ‘portion’ of your burger. Just a little extra ammonia injected during a specially patented process that makes up a percentage of the meat to form a patty. That ‘portion’ is where I think the real story lies.

Over the last few months, the news wires have been releasing stories about this specially patented process, including leading breaks by the New York Times. The stories center on the company, Beef Products Inc. (BPI) located in South Dakota. BPI developed the procedure of treating beef trimmings with ammonia to reduce the presence of harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. Coli. Some of their main customers include McDonald’s, Burger King, and local food conglomerate Cargill. BPI had performed so well during USDA inspections that by 2007 they were exempted from testing. Its customers have stood firmly by its side. Last summer, things changed when school outbreaks of salmonella resulted in a banning of BPI meat products in some states. The pressure is on the U.S. Department of Agriculture now to investigate any issues.

No one wants to eat meat products contaminated with E. Coli or salmonella. But the whole idea of eating something treated with ammonia just doesn’t sound safe. Was it too many years of Mr. Yuck stickers as a child? I realize ammonia is a naturally occurring substance and can be already present in meats. When I really began to search my inner self about this angst, I found that what truly bothered me was the product being treated. This ammonia process wasn’t used on all beef. Slaughterhouses don’t give the fated bovines an ammonia bath before packaging. This process only is used on beef trimmings. Just say those two words to yourself slowly… pause and contemplate. Beef Trimmings.

raw ground meat?: i'd guess that the pink slime is what holds it together.
raw ground meat?: i'd guess that the pink slime is what holds it together.Courtesy cobalt123
Described by one source as a “pink slime”, trimmings are the last vestiges of muscle tissue left from a good butchering. It has been separated from the ‘majority’ of bone, cartilage and connective tissue. It is then spun by centrifugal force to remove fat, pressed, screened for metal, frozen, chipped, and pressed into 60 pound blocks. In the end, it only need be 12% visible lean tissue to classify as trimmings. The USDA has standards on what constitutes both meat and trimmings. This scrap used to be regulated to pet food and cooking oil. Do we really need to be mixing some into each of our double cheeseburgers? I’d be curious to know what percentage of trimmings makes up that quarter pound patty. Take out the trimmings and we can skip the whole ammonia question.

Recent questions are being plumbed by many parties about these food safety issues. Requests for documents have been met with some resistance by BPI. They seek to block any release of the research done by the Iowa State professor who published supportive findings. Now the courtroom waltzes begin and the delay of answers drags on. I’m certain this won’t be the last we’ve heard of those tasty ammonia treated trimmings.

I think i'll change that order to a chicken sandwich. That's 'free-range' correct?

Salmonella link to peanut butter
Salmonella link to peanut butterCourtesy

The source of the salmonella outbreak that has sickened 399 people in 42 states since September may be peanut butter, Minnesota health officials said Friday.
Labs are now trying to confirm whether the strain, or serotype, found in the peanut butter -- Salmonella Typhimurium, the most common type found in the U.S. -- is the one infecting people around the country. (Read more in Scientific American)

It is being called an 'outbreak' and so far 388 people in the US have been diagnosed with Salmonella typhimurium. This is a different strain of Salmonella than found in peppers in 2007. This strain is most commonly found in poultry, cheese and eggs. For a story about the 'outbreak' see this Reuters article. Remember to cook your poultry and eggs, eat pasteurized cheese and use good food handling procedures in your kitchen!


Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled salmonella
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled salmonellaCourtesy lucianvenutian
But did anybody listen?
According to a Star and Tribune article MN’s own “Team Diarrhea” figured out jalapeño peppers were to blame for the MN Salmonella cases and told the FDA and CDC to look at jalapeño peppers as the culprit for cases nationwide instead of tomatoes. The DNA of the strains in MN matched the cases elsewhere. To learn more about this story check out a previous Buzz Blog.

I’m happy to report that these super sleuths were advisors and content experts in the development of Disease Detectives which is currently in the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Human Body Gallery. You can learn more about some of these disease detectives here.

So check out today’s Star and Tribune article and give thanks to Kirk Smith and the rest of his team at the Minnesota Department of Health for doing their best to keep us safe!


Be sure to wash pigs carefully: before kissing or eating.
Be sure to wash pigs carefully: before kissing or eating.Courtesy Matt & Helen Hamm
A new study out of Ohio State University has shown that pigs raised outdoors, antibiotic-free, on “animal friendly” farms are more likely to be infected with parasites and bacteria than animals from conventional farms. That’s sort of a surprise—that pigs without antibiotics would have more…biotics

Two of the infections found in the pigs have been seen around Science Buzz recently: toxoplasma gondii, the cat poop parasite, and salmonella, that troublesome bacteria that’s been getting in our tomatoes.

Also found in the antibiotic-free pigs was the parasite Trichinella spiralis, a round worm that can cause very serious illness in humans. Only two of the six hundred or so pigs tested were found to be hosts to trichinella, but this is still a surprising figure for an organism that has been nearly eradicated on conventional farms (veterinarians usually expect perhaps one pig in fourteen thousand to contain trichinella).

So that’s kind of yucky.

But consider this: even pigs treated with antibiotics were not free of salmonella and toxoplasma. 54% of untreated pigs had salmonella in their bodies, but so did 39% of treated pigs, and while about 7% of untreated pigs carried toxoplasma bacteria, over 1% of the treated pigs did too. Also, if you’re into the cruelty-free part of natural farming (not me—I’m all about cruelty to animals) it should be noted that the piggies aren’t actually sick, they’re simply carriers of these organisms.

The scientists behind the study are careful to point out that they aren’t recommending one form of pork production over the other—each has its benefits as well as its downsides. While pigs raised antibiotic-free are more likely to have higher rates of common bacteria of food safety concern, treated pigs can “create a favorable environment for strains of the bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.” So that’s no good.

The thing is, you shouldn’t really be worried about any of these pathogens, assuming that you handle and cook your pork properly, and don’t go around licking pigs and things.

But far be it from me to judge that sort of thing.


A bowl of diseased plant reproductive organs: Or possibly not. Salmonella is tasteless, odorless, and invisible to the naked eye. So be vigilant, Buzzketters!
A bowl of diseased plant reproductive organs: Or possibly not. Salmonella is tasteless, odorless, and invisible to the naked eye. So be vigilant, Buzzketters!Courtesy Muffet
Did you know that tomatoes are technically ovaries? They are. That goes a long way in explaining why eating a tomato feels so much like eating a raw organ, which in turn could be why they always used to make me puke (the ovary thing, combined with an early “no, really, they’re good” force-feeding session from my dad).

I’m getting over the puking thing, but I’ve spent many long and frustrating summers watching others eat tomatoes, apparently and inexplicably enjoying them. Well, it looks like this is the summer of JGordon, because finally tomatoes are making some other folks hurl too. That these plant ovaries are tainted with human or animal feces is, I think, icing on the cake.

A salmonella outbreak this spring, which has caused at least 167 individuals to become ill (23 of whom have required hospitalization), has been linked to consumption of tomatoes tainted with the salmonella St. Paul.

Salmonella is transferred to humans by consuming food contaminated with human or animal fecal matter. So, as much as you might like it, keep that fecal matter out of your food for a while, okay?

If fecal matter has somehow slipped past your guard, and your lips, there’s a chance that you too will join this latest craze. You’ll know it through flu like symptoms—fever, cramps, headache, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.—inside of a couple days after contact with the bacteria. Generally people walk away from salmonella feeling a little queasy, but for some people (young children, pregnant mothers, and folks with weakened immune systems) it can be very dangerous.

As with the spinachy e. coli outbreak at the end of ’06 (which you can read all about on Science Buzz by going here) medical authorities are recommending that you wash your produce in cold water before eating it (especially if you don’t plan on cooking it—salmonella dies at about 145 degrees), and perhaps avoid eating the specific crop the infection seems to stem from for a couple weeks (in this case red plum, Roma, and round red tomatoes). McDonalds has already made the ironic move of temporarily removing sliced tomatoes from its menu altogether—to make its burgers healthier.

If you’ve got some tomatoes you don’t entirely trust, just return them, or toss them out. Or execute them.


In Alamosa, Colorado the water is not safe to drink. It's contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. Although Salmonella outbreaks are pretty common, it is pretty rare to find it in a municipal water source. As of 11 a.m. Monday the 24th, 217 cases of Salmonella were reported, with 68 confirmed cases. For more information about this outbreak see the following links:
Colorado Department of Health
National Public Radio

I drink tap water and will continue to do so, it's safe and better for the environment. Where do you get your drinking water from and why?

It's out there...

by Liza on Dec. 20th, 2006

In other ominous food safety news, a study just published in Pediatrics shows that just being near meat or poultry in the grocery store is a risk factor for Salmonella infections in infants. (And by now you probably know about the E. coli infections related to spinach and lettuce...)