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American Food & Ag Exporter

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Wal-Mart Deli/Bakery Has Crisis Of Its Own

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, September 21, 2006

The goal to eliminate all foodborne illness is laudable but probably unobtainable. The FDA is reporting over 140 cases of illness tied to the E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak in spinach. That sounds like a lot of sick people, but the Indiana State Department of Public Health reports that:

“…the source of the recent salmonella outbreak is the Wal-Mart on 1133 North Emerson in Greenwood. The deli and bakery departments have been identified as the source of the recent salmonella outbreak in northern Johnson and southern Marion counties….The State Department of Health was contacted on July 11 by the Marion County Health Department about an increase in salmonella cases in that area. Currently, 84 cases of salmonella have been reported to be part of the outbreak, which began in May 2006.”

To put it another way, one store in one part of Indiana gave Salmonella to more than half the number of people affected by the E. Coli outbreak.

And what is Salmonella and how do you spread it?

Salmonella is a bacterium found in the intestines of many animals. People often become infected by eating contaminated foods. Salmonella can be passed because people don’t wash their hands or fruits and vegetables properly. People can also become infected after handling chicks, ducklings or reptiles, such as lizards, snakes, and turtles. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, cramps, nausea and gas.

“The best way to avoid spreading salmonella is to wash hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets, and before they fix or eat food,” said Lynae Granzow, enteric epidemiologist, Indiana State Department of Health, in the press release. “People should also thoroughly cook all foods from animal sources, especially chicken, beef, pork, and eggs.”

The specific cause in this case:

“We believe food handlers who didn’t have any symptoms may have contaminated the deli and bakery products.”

One lesson is that anyone who handles perishable foods needs to be concerned about foodborne illness. The other lesson is that there is vulnerability at every step in the supply chain. A disturbing question is if we can’t stop people from spreading disease in our stores, how are we going to stop wild animals and livestock from spreading disease in our fields?

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