Two of my favorite snack foods, salsa and guacamole, have had a not-so-safe recent history of being linked to food poisoning. During the period of 1998 to 2008, the two tortilla dips have been the source of one of every 25 foodborne illness outbreaks connected to restaurants.
This period more than doubled the rate of the previous 10 years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 1984 and 1997, salsa and guacamole accounted for about 1.5 percent of all food poisonings started from restaurants. From 1998 and 2008, that figure almost reached four percent. According to researchers, 5,560 people got sick, and 145 people ended up in the hospital. Three deaths were attributed to the salsa and guacamole outbreaks. Here is how the illnesses broke down:
- About a third of the illnesses were salmonella
- Eighteen percent were caused by norovirus
- Fifteen percent of the illnesses were caused by shigella
- The rest of the infections were unknown
The reason salsa and guacamole have been so susceptible to food poisoning is that popular ingredients such as peppers, tomatoes, and cilantro have all been linked to salmonella outbreaks in recent years.
The poisons happens for various reasons, including incorrect storage temperatures and unsanitary practices by food workers.
Food poisoning is a serious issue form a health perspective. But it has an amazing cost from an economic perspective as well. According to a coalition of consumer and public health groups, foodborne illnesses cost the U.S. $152 billion every year. The CDC also estimates that 76 million Americans get sick every year due to food poisoning, with 5,000 dying.