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FDA finds seven percent of spices carry salmonella

In Minnesota, industrialized, large-scale farming, centralized food processing and international agricultural distribution has brought many benefits, aside from massive profits for some multinational corporations, in dizzyingly large and diverse food supply that is remarkably inexpensive. However, it also comes at price that is often paid by those that harvest or grow the products, and by consumers in terms of quality and food safety. 

Those long supply chains and the fungibility of the goods make it difficult to ascertain the origin of unreasonably dangerous products contaminated with bacteria that can trigger thousands of illness and too many cases kill those infected.

In recent years we have seen hamburger, peanut butter and salad greens contaminated with salmonella. The bacterium, which is transmitted by fecal matter, causes more than a million cases of illness every year in the United States. Salmonella leaves the victim with diarrhea and can infect the vital organs, resulting in about 450 deaths every year.

One area of food contamination that has escaped much scrutiny is that of spices. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been engaged in a study of spices from around the world and found that Mexico and India supplied the largest percentages of contaminated spices.

Until recently, tracking contamination from spices would have been virtually impossible, often because they would have been overlooked as a source of salmonella. Few people would have attributed their contracting salmonella with putting pepper in a stew or oregano on a pizza.

Salmonella now can be tracked by DNA, allowing exact identification of variants. This oversight is permitting the FDA to enforce stricter standards and force countries like India to change production methods to prevent the spices from becoming contaminated.

If you have suffered severe injuries caused by a food-borne illness, you may want to discuss your facts and, whether compensation may be available, with an attorney.

Source: New York Times, "Salmonella in Spices Prompts Changes in Farming," Gardiner Harris, August 27, 2013

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