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article imageWashington state Salmonella cases up to 90 — CDC called in

By Karen Graham     Aug 1, 2015 in Food
The number of Salmonella illnesses in several Washington state counties has now jumped to 90 cases, prompting the Washington State Department of Health to call in The CDC. The USDA/FSIS has also issued a public health alert.
On July 24, Digital Journal reported that 56 people in eight Washington state counties had come down with Salmonella infections linked to eating pork.
The investigation in all the cases is still centered on a "farm to table" approach, with the link to pork consumption or the handling of raw pork being the likely source of infection. But it should be noted that as of now, no specific source has been identified. The one common denominator for many of the illnesses seems to be the consumption of whole roasted pigs, cooked and served at local events.
Again, it is interesting that all of the cases of Salmonellosis have come from one strain of the bacteria, Salmonella enterica I, 4, 5, 12:i:-. This particular strain of Salmonella has been emerging in the U.S. for the past decade, but this is the first outbreak of food-borne illness in Washington state involving this pathogen.
While the CDC and FSIS were notified of the outbreak when it was first confirmed, Washington health officials have now asked the CDC to send a team of investigators to aid in finding the source. The team of "disease detectives" will arrive in Washington next week.
In the meantime, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert on Friday, warning consumers of the potential for Salmonella infections associated with pork products, and specifically whole pigs used for pig roasts.
The FSIS reminds consumers that roasting a whole pig is a complex undertaking and comes with numerous health issues. FSIS urges consumers to keep the four food safety steps in mind: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
Food safety tips when handling raw meat and fish
All meats and fish should be cooked to a safe internal temperature, using a food thermometer. This is a "given" all cooks should practice. But let's start at the beginning:
1. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after handling any raw meat. Inadequate hand washing is a leading cause of food-borne disease today.
2. Keep your utensils and counter-tops clean. Don't use a washcloth to wipe up bloody meat stains. Use a paper towel and throw it away.
3. Wash all produce, especially if it is to be eaten raw. Do not use the "soak in a bowl of cold water" method. Actually take the time to rinse the produce well under cold, running water.
4. Refrigerate foods immediately. Don't leave food on the counter to "cool down." Cut or divide solid food (meat) into small pieces and cool in uncovered containers in the refrigerator. Only cover the container after the food is below 45 degrees F.
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