Not the salmonella outbreak you are thinking of

Yes, there has been a recall  of Salmonella-tainted eggs (half a billion eggs and counting) that have sickened almost 2000 individuals. The eggs were produced in what seems to be a Mega Chicken Coop created from rows of windowless factory buildings in Iowa.

That chickens may have salmonella in this setting should not shock you. The USDA states that humans and most animals (even chickens raised in organic settings) may be carriers of salmonella  (especially the strain Salmonella Enteritidis). It is just more likely that chickens in close, crowded conditions can spread the infection more easily to other chickens. I also love that the CNN article from above stated:

Chickens can pass the bacteria to eggs because the eggs leave hens through the same passageway as feces, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Alternatively, bacteria in the hen’s ovary or oviduct can get to the egg before the shell forms around it, FSIS said.

The bad news is that it appears most people do not understand the egg laying process. Where do they think the eggs come from? The good news is that most people who get salmonellosis (fever, diarrhea, vomiting) from Salmonella Enteritidis will recover without treatment. This means you simply get better, no need for antibiotics.

BUT, that outbreak is not the point of this post. There has been another outbreak of salmonellosis. The latest outbreak occurred in Illinois from eating contaminated PICKLES. Of the 6 people who were infected, five where hospitalized.  I KNOW.  This is now officially “Scary Bacteria Month” (my designation). First, gram-negative superbugs, O157:H7 E. coli, millions of salmonella-tainted eggs and now bacteria that can live in a vinegar/salt solution (the term pickle is derived from the Dutch word pekel, meaning brine).

Salomonella should not be able to live in this environment. The pickling process should effectively destroy the organisms. Heat plus acid usually does the trick. However, the report I received stated in an abstract at the bottom that there is a growing incidence of outbreaks from acid-resistant food borne pathogens:

Outbreaks of acid-resistant foodborne pathogens in acid foods with pH values below 4.0, including apple cider and orange juice, have raised concerns about the safety of acidified vegetable products.

It appears that we may need to heat these foods, at longer temperatures to reduce these bacteria to safe levels.

My only reaction to this news is that it appears to me that we are developing a league of (evil) bacterial superbugs. What’s next? The ability to spin spider silk? Yikes.  But so far they are still  unable to swing from rooftop to rooftop, or leap the tallest building in a single bound. So we have that going for us.

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