Posts Tagged ‘salmonella’

The Five-Second Rule revisited

Friday, October 21st, 2011

don't wind up here, or worse

When I was a kid, we often used the Five-Second Rule, that meant food falling on a relative clean surface could be eaten if it was picked up in less than that amount of time. In recent years I’ve heard jokes about this rule: when parents have their first child, they use five seconds as a safe time, with the second, it’s ten seconds and with later children, it’s wipe off the mud and let them eat whatever dropped.

I received the November issue of the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Nutrition Action Healthletter several days ago  and noticed this month’s focus was “Safe at Home: How to keep your kitchen from making you sick.” I haven’t had time to read much of the issue, but leafed through it and saw a brief blurb titled “Ignore the five-second rule.”

So today I re-read that section, then went online and found the original article in the Journal of Applied Microbiology and Googled the lead author. Dr. Paul Dawson is a Professor of Food Science at Clemson, got his PhD at North Carolina State University, then did a two-year post-doctoral fellowship. Since joining the Clemson faculty he’s published over 80 research manuscripts.

He was on a CNN TV show in 2010 discussing the 5-second rule, double-dipping (chips into a cheese or salsa dip) and, most recently was working on a project on the bacteriologic safety of blowing out birthday candles (See link below).

I read the online 2006 version of the original article in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, which appeared in paper format in April of 2007. Some of the background data is of interest: over 75,000,000 cases of food-borne illness occur in the United States each year and 5,200 of these result in deaths. Dawson’s experiments were performed using Salmonella bacteria, which is found in a substantial percentage of poultry, roughly 10% in two studies by the USDA.

Every surface is a danger zone

My take on Dawson’s results is 1). bacteria excrete chemicals allowing them to adhere to nearly any kind of surface (e.g., tile, rugs, cutting boards); 2). once they do so they have “biofilms,” microscopic layers that allow them to survive for extended periods of time; 3). they can transfer from those surfaces to a variety of foods (Dawson used bread and bologna) very rapidly; so 4). the five-second rule is invalid and we all need to work on more effectively cleaning “food contact surfaces (counter tops and cutting boards come to mind).

I enjoyed watching the CNN interview with Dr. Dawson and will be intrigued to find out what his birthday candle research will show. In the meantime, I’ll quit picking up food that has fallen on what appear to be clean surfaces; they’re not.

http://newsroom.blogs.cnn.com/2010/08/01/five-second-rule-urban-myth-or-scientific-fact/

 

 

Turkey, anyone?

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Delicious if cooked correctly; potentially deadly otherwise

Last evening I was reading The New York Times breaking news on my Kindle. I scanned several articles and then read “Linked to Outbreak.” This morning the same topic was reported on the second page of The Wall Street Journal.

In brief, the Cargill company has recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey, both fresh and frozen, believed linked to 79 illnesses and one death (so far) from contamination with the bacteria salmonella, in this case a strain of the common organism that is markedly antibiotic resistant. They’ve shut down one of their plants, in Arkansas, and says that’s been the only one of their four turkey-producing plants involved.

That rang an alarm since I knew they had a plant in Fort Morgan, Colorado, roughly 80 miles east, where my in-laws live. I Googled Cargill and noticed there’s even a branch here in Fort Collins. I found out the local branch is a research organization developing new forms of canola oil, but the Fort Morgan branch is a meat processing entity.

So I found background information on salmonella. One helpful website is a USDA Q&A four-page Fact Sheet. It mentions that salmonella bacteria are among the most common causes of foodborne illness, what we often term as “food poisoning.” I’ll paste in the link below, but wanted to mention some interesting background facts.

In Federal testing ten to fifteen percent of ground turkey is contaminated with salmonella and more than three fourths of those bacteria are resistant to at least one kind of antibiotic, since our current practice in raising food animals is to routinely give them drugs to prevent illness and, supposedly, to promote growth.

www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/salmonella_questions…/index.asp

Katic Couric has a CBS News article online (see link below) where in February 2010 she explored the question Is “Animal Antibiotic Overuse Hurting Humans?” That story centered on MRSA, a drug-resistant staph strain that has become a major problem in and outside hospitals.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/02/09/eveningnews/main6191530.shtml

But the discussion veered off to the routine antibiotic use in other factory farm animals. One veterinarian said not every animal gets antibiotics on these huge farms, but drug distributors and dozens of farm workers in four farm belt states -Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma – said antibiotic use to promote growth is widespread on factory farms.

So what can and should we be doing in our own kitchens?

First thing is to be aware that cross contamination can occur; in other words when you’re preparing raw turkey meat, your hands, utensils and cutting boards can help spread the bacteria to other foods.

learn to use this correctly

Then you need to thoroughly cook these meat products, an internal temperature of 165 degrees measured with an accurate meat thermometer should be sufficient to kill salmonella, according to several government sources.

Leftovers have to be properly stored, within an hour if the ambient temperature is 90 or above, in a refrigerator at 40 degrees or below. I leave a thermometer in our refrigerator and check the temp every time I open the door. I also make sure it’s fully shut after I put food in for storage.

That’s a brief overview; check the links for more information.