At Safe Food Training, we keep a close eye on food-borne illness outbreaks in the news and are finding more and more salmonella cases as a result of tainted produce. The most recent salmonella outbreak to hit the United States has come as a result of contaminated papayas imported from Mexico. While Salmonella is most commonly associated with undercooked eggs and poultry, ServSafe food managers should take extra care when handling produce like Papayas to avoid spreading illness such as Salmonella from unlikely sources.
ServSafe Food Managers and Salmonella in Produce
According to the FDA’s statistics from this most recent Salmonella outbreak, tainted papaya sickened at least 62 consumers with 23 of those requiring hospitalization across eight different states. This recall did not result in a mandatory recall, but FDA recommendations included in this alert advise throwing away any papaya from tainted batches.
It does not appear, however, that Minnesota has been included in the list of states that have reported illnesses, but cases like this can serve as a lesson that just because an ingredient isn’t often associated with a specific food-borne illness there’s no guarantee that it avoided any type of contamination during packing or shipping.
So far in 2019, the FDA has identified five major salmonella outbreaks in the United States. One from ground turkey, a familiar source of salmonella, one from frozen tuna and three from non-animal product. Along with papayas, we’ve also seen outbreaks in cut melons and tahini sicken customers who consumed these items. So how can ServSafe food managers in Minnesota keep their guests safe when foodborne illness, like salmonella, can come from papayas or just about anywhere?
First, wash all produce before processing. Even if the fruit has a rind or peel that will not be served to guests, contaminated peels can transfer bacteria to cutting boards, countertops and knives. An uncontaminated knife can pick up bacteria on the skin of fruits and vegetables and then transfer it to the edible portion as it slides through the flesh of the product.
Finally, pay attention to the news and check the FDA recall list often. We realize that ServSafe food managers have a lot on their plate, but taking a few seconds to frequently check FDA recalls could prevent your guests from consuming a product known to be tainted.
What precautions do you take to prevent spreading Salmonella infections from unlikely sources?