Peaches recalled due to salmonella

Last week it was onions, and now this week peaches have been recalled due to salmonella. What is salmonella, and how do fruits and vegetables get contaminated with it?

Bags of peaches. Photo: Getty Images. 

Good question. First, let’s look at the current recall that was linked to loose or bagged peaches packed or supplied by Prima Wawona or Wawona Packing Company LLC, according to an Aug. 27 alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The peaches, which were sold in many large retailers, including Aldi, Target, Walmart, and Kroger, were recalled due to potential contamination with salmonella enteritidis. A list of the impacted fruit can be found here. The peaches recall occurs as a nationwide onion recall—also due to salmonella contamination—was expanded Aug. 18 to include more onions and some food made with onions.

So, what is salmonella and how does food become contaminated with it?

Salmonella are a group of bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illness and fever called salmonellosis, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

And while there are many ways pathogens such as salmonella can contaminate foods, one frequent way is through contact with fecal matter, said Sanja Ilic, food safety state specialist with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

This can happen on farm fields, where animal feces can spread disease to produce.

For example, if food is made from grain or produce that has come into contact with animal feces in the field or in the soil in which it is grown, or if the grain or produce comes into contact with water that contains the pathogen, salmonella can be transferred from the feces onto the grain or produce, Ilic said.

There are also numerous points along any supply chain where fruits and vegetables or other food produce can be infected with illness-causing bacteria. For example, salmonella can spread at the food manufacturing plant if a contaminated ingredient comes into contact with equipment that then touches other foods, she said.

In restaurants and other food service entities, for example, salmonella can be spread by food handlers who do not wash their hands and/or the surfaces and tools they use between food preparation steps, and when people eat raw or undercooked foods.

Salmonella can also be spread in one’s own home, where raw meat or eggs can cross-contaminate with other groceries, Ilic said.

Pets can also spread the bacteria within a home if they eat food contaminated with salmonella, the FDA says.

Foods that have been linked to salmonella outbreaks in the U.S. have included meat products, poultry products, raw or undercooked eggs and dough, flour, cereal, dairy products, fruits, leafy greens, raw sprouts, fresh vegetables, nut butters and spreads, and pet foods and treats, according to the FDA.

Cooking foods to their recommended minimal temperatures kills salmonella and other pathogenic bacteria, Ilic said.

“However, when fresh produce items become contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella, this is of a particular concern, because these foods are consumed uncooked,” she said.

Salmonella infection can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps within six hours to six days after being exposed to the bacteria, with the symptoms typically lasting four to seven days. In some people, including children, elderly people, and those who might have compromised immune systems, the disease can be so severe that it leads to hospitalization or even death, the CDC says.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line writer Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, state specialist in food safety for OSU Extension.

Tips to save money on groceries

My grocery bill has risen by almost $80 a month since March and it’s becoming harder to keep spending so much more than we used to. Do you have any tips on how we can cut our food costs?

Photo: Getty Images.

You aren’t alone in noticing the increase in the price of some foods. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices increased some 5.6% in June as compared to the same time last year. Additionally, between March and June, the cost of poultry and eggs have increased more than 7%, while the costs of veal and meat has increased more than 20%.

Much of the increase, experts say, has been attributed to several reason, including the increased demand for groceries with more people buying food to eat at home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as issues with disruptions across the food supply chain earlier in the pandemic.

With this in mind, there are ways for you to cut costs from your grocery bill, while still eating healthy. You can start by planning ahead for your grocery spending, which can allow you to make healthy food choices but still spend less.

As mentioned in a previous Chow line, one of the best ways to stick to a budget is to take inventory in your kitchen of the items that are needed for the week or the month and make a list of the foods you plan to purchase before you get to the grocery store. And once you are at the store, stick to your grocery list, bypassing the urge to buy any tempting items that you really don’t need.

That’s just one of the tips listed on the Celebrate Your Plate website offered by The Ohio State University’s SNAP-Ed program. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by Ohio State University Extension, which is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

The website offers tips on shopping, cooking, gardening and for in the kitchen, all designed to help people budget for, plan and create healthy, good-tasting meals.

Some other tips the website offers on how fruits and vegetables can fit into your budget include:

  • Plan your meals ahead of time and make a grocery list, then stick to your list. You’ll save money by buying only what you need.
  • Don’t shop when you’re hungry. Shopping after eating will make it easier to pass on tempting snack foods. You’ll have more of your food budget for vegetables and fruits.
  • When purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables, buy those that are in season. In-season produce typically not only has more flavor and is fresher, it usually costs less.
  • Canned or frozen vegetables can offer costs savings. For canned items, choose fruit canned in 100 percent fruit juice and vegetables with “low sodium” or “no salt added” on the label.
  • Clip coupons from the local newspaper and online. Also, check weekly store ads for sales, coupons and specials that will cut food costs.
  • Some fresh vegetables and fruits don’t last long, so buying small amounts more often can help make sure you can eat the foods without throwing any away.
  • Choose store brands when possible. You’ll get the same or similar product for a cheaper price. If your grocery store has a membership card, sign up for even more savings.
  • Buy vegetables and fruits in their simplest form. Pre-cut, pre-washed, ready-to-eat and processed foods may be more convenient, but they often cost much more than fruits and vegetables that are purchased in their most basic forms.

Another way to save time and money while incorporating more fruits and veggies in your diet is to use leftover vegetables to make a casserole or soup. You can use your overripe fruit to make a smoothie or for baking. More cost-saving tips, recipes and information can be found at celebrateyourplate.org.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was originally reviewed by Ana Claudia Zubieta, director of Ohio SNAP-Ed in CFAES.

Some onions, ready-to-eat meat, and poultry products recalled

How do I know if the onions or other food products in my pantry or fridge are part of a recall I just heard about?

Showing E coli culture plate with red onion. Photo: Getty Images.  

There are currently two recalls to which you might be referring. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning recently about onions that have been recalled by Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, Calif., due to concerns that the products might be contaminated with salmonella Newport.

Likewise, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a public health alert this week for ready-to-eat meat and poultry products containing onions that were a part of the FDA warning.

According to the FDA, the onions, recalled on Aug. 1, include all of Thompson International’s red, white, yellow, and sweet yellow onions shipped from May 1 through the present. The onions were distributed to wholesalers, restaurants, and retail stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada. A list of the recalled onions can be found on the FDA site.

The USDA-FSIS then issued their alert Aug. 5 for ready-to-eat meat and poultry products that contain “onions that have been recalled by Thomson International Inc. due to concerns that the products may be contaminated with salmonella,” according to a written statement.

The ready-to-eat meat and poultry products were produced by Taylor Farms on July 30 and 31. A specific list of recalled products can be found on the USDA site.

The move is to try to prevent consumers from developing a foodborne illness from salmonella, which typically causes a million foodborne illnesses in the United States each year, resulting in some hospitalizations and even some deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Salmonella infection can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours of infection, with the symptoms typically lasting four to seven days. In some people, the disease can be so severe that it leads to hospitalization or even death, the CDC says.

As of Aug. 3, some 396 salmonellosis illnesses—including 59 hospitalizations—had been reported after consumers ate the contaminated foods, the CDC says. In Ohio, at least seven people have reported salmonella infections as part of this outbreak, the CDC says.

Consumers who aren’t sure if the onions in their pantry are a part of the recall should throw them out, the FDA says.

That’s one reason why this outbreak is a great example of the need for consumer traceability back to producers, said Kara Morgan, associate director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI) at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

The center, which was founded as a nonprofit organization in 2006 and became part of CFAES in September 2019, offers links to food safety-related research; food safety education and training resources; food safety online courses; consumer awareness and education information; information on food safety outreach and public service; links to foodborne safety organizations and resources; and a food safety blog.

“Consumers do not have any tools for knowing if the products in their pantries are from Thomson, so this outbreak led to a lot of needless food waste,” Morgan said. “The FDA and others are working on systems to improve this, and those solutions cannot come soon enough.”

More information on these recalls, in addition to any other recalls and food safety information can be found on the CFI website at foodsafety.osu.edu.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Kara Morgan, associate, CFI, and an assistant professor at CFAES’ Department of Food Science and Technology.