Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Watch out for salads: They may be contaminated by E coli, Staphylococcus, Salmonella, Yersinia

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Carrot and onion salads served in eateries in twin
cities are contaminated with dangerous bacteria that could trigger
life-threatening gastroenteritis, pneumonia and plague.

The Food and Drug Toxicology Research Centre of the city-based
National Institute of Nutrition collected as many as 106 salad
samples, 53 each of onion and carrot, from four different localities
of Hyderabad – Yousufguda, Alwal, Secunderabad and Koti and tested
them for microbiological contamination. These salad samples were
served along with street foods. The results are quite startling. About
98 per cent of carrot samples and 75 per cent of onion samples
contained E coli. Around 77 per cent of carrots and 48 per cent of
onion salads had Staphylococcus aureus. E coli are notorious for
causing uncontrollable loose motions and vomiting while Staphylococcus
aureus can trigger a number of health issues including serious ones
like pneumonia and septicemia.

Since salad vegetables are consumed without any heat treatment,
sometimes without washing and peeling, there is possibility of spread
of food borne diseases from them. The problem is felt more in people
with weak immune system.

The NIN scientists also collected information on the hygiene practices
of those operating the roadside eateries. The team found that about 60
per cent of carrot and 34 per cent of onions contained Salmonella
species, 85 per cent carrots and 65 per cent onions had Yersinia.
Salmonella causes a plethora of problems including typhoid while
Yersinia could trigger one of the three types of plagues.

To their shock, the researchers found that about 98 per cent of the
vendors did not wash the vegetables before processing and serving.
About 56.6 per cent vendors do not peel the vegetables. About 60 per
cent of street vendors’ nails were uncut.

The team then undertook a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points
(HACCP) study on six select street food vendors to find out the source
of salmonella contamination in salads. They noticed that the food
handlers were responsible for the contamination.

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