Chinese ingredients blamed for US salmonella scare

By George Reynolds

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salmonella, North america, Foodborne illness

Chinese ingredients used to make a seasoning that flavors processed
snacks manufactured in the US could be contaminated with
salmonella, the national food safety regulator has warned.

The seasoning ingredients, which came from mainly China, could add to the growing list of contaminated imports from the country and further demonstrate the importance for processors to have tracing procedures in place. Authorities in North America issued a warning not to consume two vegetable flavored snacks from Roberts's American Gourmet, following dozens of illnesses, including four hospitalizations, reported in the US. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said it has had no confirmed cases of illnesses. The New York based company issued a voluntary recall in both the US and Canada last week after 54 cases of salmonella poisoning was reported across 17 states since March 2007. Production and distribution of affected products has been suspended, with the manufacturer expecting operations to resume in two to three weeks. This week the Minnesota Department of Agriculture said tests on samples of Veggie Booty Snack Food had found salmonella wandsworth present. The rare strain matched the genetic fingerprint of the type that made consumers ill in multiple states, Minnesota officials said in a news release. Roberts's American Gourmet said its own tests had also confirmed the presence of the bacteria in the seasoning and the bags. The company and officials said that no other Roberts's American Gourmet product is affected by the contamination and recall. Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In the US an estimated 76 million cases of foodborne illnesses occur each year, causing about 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics for 2005. Since 1990, over 400 produce-related outbreaks have occurred across North America. According to 2006 statistics reported to through the CDC by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (also known as FoodNet), some pathogen-related illnesses are on the increase. FoodNet collects data from 10 US states regarding diseases caused by enteric pathogens transmitted commonly through food. The CDC identified 17,252 laboratory-confirmed cases of food poisoning in 2006, including 6,655 cases of salmonella and 590 cases of E.coli O157. In 2005, 16,614 cases were identified, rising from 15,806 in 2004.

Related topics: Suppliers, Food safety and labeling

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