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Pathogens on your foods to avoid

You may wish to check out the "Ten Least Wanted Pathogens" information provided by the Centers for Disease Control. For more information visit the CDC website. Or see the "Least Wanted Foodborne Pathogens" website from the Partnership for Food and Safety. You also can check out the Fight BAC!® website, where these pathogens are listed with an explanation of where you'll find them and what they do to food and you if you eat these pathogens on food.

The U.S. Public Health Service has identified the following microorganisms as being the biggest culprits of foodborne illness, either because of the severity of the sickness or the number of cases of illness they cause. Beware of these pathogens. They're listed on the Fight BAC!® website. Also check out the sites, "Ten Least Wanted Pathogens" information provided by the Centers for Disease Control. For more information visit You also may wish to see a July 17, 2014 announcement from the CDC, "Organic Sprouted Chia Powder – Salmonella Infections." Or check out the website of the Partnership for Food Safety Education. There's a promotional campaign ongoing to get people to wash their hands and not to eat undercooked foods such as undercooked chicken or other animal protein that's supposed to be cooked, grilled, baked, roasted, boiled, heated in various ways, or fried at a certain temperature for a certain period of time. Even dried meats, pickled meats, and canned meats need to be handled in a way to get rid of the pathogens before they multiply.

Here's where you'll find them: Learn to avoid these pathogens in your food

Campylobacter- Second most common bacterial cause of diarrhea in the United States. Sources: raw and undercooked poultry and other meat, raw milk and untreated water.

Clostridium botulinum- This organism produces a toxin which causes botulism, a life-threatening illness that can prevent the breathing muscles from moving air in and out of the lungs. Sources: improperly prepared home-canned foods; honey should not be fed to children less than 12 months old.

E. coli O157:H7- A bacterium that can produce a deadly toxin and causes approximately 73,000 cases of foodborne illness each year in the U.S. Sources: beef, especially undercooked or raw hamburger; produce; raw milk; and unpasteurized juices and ciders.

E. coli O157:H7- A bacterium that can produce a deadly toxin and causes approximately 73,000 cases of foodborne illness each year in the U.S. Sources: beef, especially undercooked or raw hamburger; produce; raw milk; and unpasteurized juices and ciders.

Listeria monocytogenes- Causes listeriosis, a serious disease for pregnant women, newborns, and adults with a weakened immune system. Sources: unpasteurized dairy products, including soft cheeses; sliced deli meats; smoked fish; hot dogs; pate'; and deli-prepared salads (for example. egg, ham, seafood, and chicken salads).

Norovirus- The leading viral cause of diarrhea in the United States. Poor hygiene causes Norovirus to be easily passed from person to person and from infected individuals to food items. Sources: Any food contaminated by someone who is infected with this virus.

Salmonella- Most common bacterial cause of diarrhea in the United States, and the most common cause of foodborne deaths. Responsible for 1.4 million cases of foodborne illness a year. Sources: raw and undercooked eggs, undercooked poultry and meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, and unpasteurized dairy products.

Staphylococcus aureus- This bacterium produces a toxin that causes vomiting shortly after being ingested. Sources: cooked foods high in protein (e.g. cooked ham, salads, bakery products, dairy products) that are held too long at room temperature.

Shigella - Causes an estimated 448,000 cases of diarrhea illnesses per year. Poor hygiene causes Shigella to be easily passed from person to person and from infected individuals to food items. Sources: salads, unclean water, and any food handled by someone who is infected with the bacterium.

Toxoplasma gondii- Aparasite that causes toxoplasmosis, a very severe disease that can produce central nervous system disorders particularly mental retardation and visual impairment in children. Pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk. Sources: raw or undercooked pork.

Vibrio vulnificus- Causes gastroenteritis, wound infection, and severe bloodstream infections. People with liver diseases are especially at high risk. Sources: raw or undercooked seafood, particularly shellfish.

While most consumers are very aware of food safety issues, including salmonella, and the risk of foodborne illness, many do not follow recommended food safety practices in preparing their own meals at home, according to new research from the University of California, Davis. The study, which examined preparation of raw poultry, found that the most common risks stemmed from cross contamination and insufficient cooking. The study’s complete findings will be published in the September/October 2014 issue of Food Protection Trends. Consumers can find various types of free downloadable information on home food safety at the Fight Bacteria Organization site.

“The most surprising aspect of these findings to me was the prevalence of undercooking,” said Christine Bruhn, according to a June 27, 2014 UC Davis news release, "UC Davis study identifies risky food safety practices in home kitchens: Findings reveal Americans often undercook chicken, rarely wash hands; research highlights need for increased consumer food safety education." Bruhn is the director of the Center for Consumer research at UC Davis, who authored the study. “We are now in summer, the peak season for foodborne illness, and these results come at a time when more consumers can benefit from being aware of better food safety practices. Even tips usually considered basic, like washing hands with soap and water before and after handling raw poultry, and never rinsing raw poultry in the sink, still need to be emphasized for a safer experience,” added Bruhn, a specialist in UC Cooperative Extension who studies consumer attitudes and behaviors toward food safety.

Most risks can be avoided by practicing thorough hand-washing, never rinsing raw chicken in the sink and using calibrated thermometers to determine that chicken is fully cooked. Researchers say these results will help narrow areas of focus and define important messages for food safety educators and advocates in their mission to promote safe food preparation.

The study analyzed video footage taken of 120 participants preparing a self-selected chicken dish and salad in their home kitchens. The participants were experienced in chicken preparation, with 85 percent serving chicken dishes in their home weekly, and 84 percent reporting being knowledgeable about food safety; 48 percent indicated they had received formal food safety training.

Cross contamination was of specific concern to researchers:

  • Most participants, 65 percent, did not wash their hands before starting meal preparation and 38 percent did not wash their hands after touching raw chicken.
  • Only 10 percent of participants washed their hands for the recommended duration of 20 seconds and about one-third of the washing occasions used water only, without soap.
  • Nearly 50 percent of participants were observed washing their chicken in the sink prior to preparation, a practice that is not recommended as it leads to spreading bacteria over multiple surfaces in the kitchen. See the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

Insufficient cooking was also observed:

  • Forty percent of participants undercooked their chicken, regardless of preparation method and only 29 percent knew the correct USDA recommended temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Researchers observed that cooking thermometers were not widely used, with only 48 percent of participants owning one, and 69 percent of those reporting that they seldom use it to check if chicken is completely cooked. Most participants determined “fully cooked” based on appearance, an unreliable method according to the USDA. No participants reported calibrating their thermometers to ensure accuracy.

Based on the study’s findings, a coalition of agriculture and food safety partners, including the California Department of Food and Agriculture, UC Davis, the California Poultry Federation, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the Northwest Chicken Council, Partnership for Food Safety Education, and Foster Farms, are launching an educational campaign to increase consumer knowledge about safe food preparation practices in the home. The study was funded by contributions from Foster Farms.

“We all have an important role in ensuring food safety and preventing foodborne illness,” said Shelley Feist, according to the news release. Feist is the executive director of the nonprofit Partnership for Food Safety Education. “Dr. Bruhn’s research shows that some home food safety practices need to be reinforced with consumers. Proper hand-washing and the consistent use of thermometers are basic preventive actions that need to be part of all home food handling and preparation.”

California agriculture officials and representatives have been vocal in recent weeks about salmonella control at the ranch level. “The California poultry industry has made great strides in reducing salmonella on raw chicken,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “However, even at this lower level, consumers still need to practice safe handling and cooking of raw poultry.” Ross recently recorded a public service announcement calling for more attention to safe handling and cooking for raw poultry and meats.

“The poultry industry takes its responsibility to produce a safe product very seriously, as evidenced by current food safety programs that are drastically reducing the incidence of salmonella,” said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation. “At the same time, the research indicates that the consumer recognizes they also have a role in ensuring safety. This research provides a great opportunity to educate consumers with the most helpful information and tools to minimize risk and gives us a clear picture of what behaviors to focus on.”

About Christine Bruhn

Bruhn is an expert in consumer behavior, food science, and consumer economics. She studies consumer attitudes toward food safety and quality and guides educational programs that inform consumers about food safety, new products and new technologies. She is a fellow of the Institute of Food Technologists, the Institute of Food Science and Technology in the U.K., and the International Association for Food Protection. In 2011, Bruhn completed a four-year term on the FDA Risk Communication Advisory Committee. She continues to serve as a consultant to the committee. Bruhn has authored more than 150 professional papers on consumer attitudes toward food. Find an infographic at: the UC Davis photos website.

Watch out for unproven claims about cosmetic stem cell procedures

Beware of claims about cosmetic stem cells procedures, says review in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Click here to read "The Role of Stem Cells in Aesthetic Surgery: Fact or Fiction?" The authors cite 'unsubstantiated, sometimes fraudulent claims' for cosmetic procedures using stem cells. Advertising claims for cosmetic procedures using stem cells are running far ahead of the scientific evidence for safety and effectiveness, according to a review in the August 2014 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

"Stem cells offer tremendous potential, but the marketplace is saturated with unsubstantiated and sometimes fraudulent claims that may place patients at risk," write Dr Michael T. Longaker of Stanford University Medical Center and colleagues.

'Worrying advertisements' for cosmetic stem cell procedures

Dr Longaker and coauthors raise concerns about the unregulated use of stem cells for unproven indications—including cosmetic procedures. While stem cell therapy "remains in its infancy," they write, "there are a growing number of cosmetic practitioners that are advertising minimally invasive, stem cell-based rejuvenation procedures."

The article was prompted by "worrying advertisements" claiming benefits of stem cell procedures for facelifts, breast augmentation—even "stem cell vaginal rejuvenation." These ads claim benefits from procedures that have not undergone rigorous scientific evaluation—including potential risks related to stem cell and tissue processing and the effects of aging on stem cells, explains the July 29, 2014 news release, "Beware of claims about cosmetic stem cells procedures, says review in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery."

To gain insight into these claims, Dr Longaker and coauthors performed a Google search for cosmetic stem cell treatments, the most common of which was "stem cell facelifts." Most procedures used "stem cells" isolated from fat. However, the websites provided little information on the quality of the stem cells used.

Without advanced cell-sorting procedures, these products used in these procedures likely contain many other types of cells besides fat-derived stem cells. Many clinics also offered plasma-rich platelet protein treatments, which they inaccurately marketed as stem cell therapy.

Despite evidence that is "minimal at best," advertisers are also claiming that their stem cell treatments have "anti-aging effects." The authors note that procedures marketed as "stem cell facelifts" are often just "lipofilling" procedures—an established fat injection technique with no prolonged anti-aging effect.

Call for plastic surgery to lead in evaluating cosmetic uses of stem cells

To date, just one stem cell procedure for cosmetic purpose has received FDA approval, after extensive evaluation. That product, designed to treat fine facial wrinkles, is undergoing extensive post-approval surveillance. Of more than 100 clinical trials being performed to evaluate fat-derived stem cells, only a handful are focusing on cosmetic treatments.

Stem cells certainly have a role to play in regenerative medicine and cosmetic surgery. The authors note that the ASPS and other specialty groups have formed task forces to develop position statements based on the best available data for procedures using fat-derived stem cells.

"With plastic surgeons at the forefront of stem cell-based regenerative medicine, it is critically important that we provide an example of a rigorous approach to research, data collection, and advertising of stem cell therapies," Dr Longaker and coauthors conclude, according to the July 29, 2014 news release, Beware of claims about cosmetic stem cells procedures, says review in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. "Stem cells offer tremendous potential for cosmetic applications, but we must be vigilant to avoid unscientific claims which may threaten this nascent field." You also may wish to see another article from USA Today, "Beware of stem cell therapy claims: Column." Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

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