K-State Research and Extension News
July 30, 2013
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Proper Handling and Preparation of Food Protects Consumers


Iowa State University video "How to Clean Fruits and Vegetables"

Recent outbreaks of Cyclospora infection reported

OLATHE, Kan. – A food safety expert is cautioning consumers to properly handle and prepare produce before eating.

Although these practices are always important, extra caution should be taken as a result of a recent outbreak of the Cyclospora infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported more than 353 cases, most likely spread by consuming contaminated produce.

“It is still safe to eat fresh vegetables, as the vegetables that caused the infection are likely no longer being sold,” said Londa Vanderwal Nwadike, state extension consumer food safety specialist with Kansas State University and the University of Missouri.

This outbreak is a great reminder for consumers to use proper food safety handling practices when preparing and handling fresh vegetables, whether purchased at a grocery store, a farmers market, or raised yourself, she said.

Proper food safety handling practices include:

  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds before (and after) handling or preparing any food.
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised parts of the produce.
  • Wash/rub down the produce under clean running water, even if you are going to peel it.
  • Be sure to use clean water and clean the produce thoroughly. There is no need to use soap or produce rinses.
  • With items such as head lettuce, be sure to take apart the leaves and wash the individual leaves.
  • Use a vegetable brush to scrub the outside surface of produce such as potatoes and melons under running water.

With Cyclospora, it usually takes one week from the time contaminated food is consumed until the person becomes sick. Symptoms of infection include persistent watery diarrhea with frequent bowel movements, which can last an average of 60 days if not treated. Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, stomach cramps and pain, bloating, increased gas, fatigue, and other flu-like symptoms.

As of July 26, the infections included 140 cases in Iowa, 71 in Nebraska, 92 in Texas, 2 in Missouri, and 1 in Kansas. At least 21 people have been reported to be hospitalized in three states.  These numbers may continue to rise as cases are investigated. 

“Even though only two cases have been reported in Missouri and one in Kansas so far, there may be some consumers in these states that have been exposed to the pathogen.  Anyone that is experiencing the symptoms listed above should see their health care provider, “ Nwadike said.

For additional information, see an Iowa State University video on washing fresh produce.

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K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Elaine Edwards
elainee@ksu.edu
K-State Research & Extension News

Dr. Londa Nwadike – lnwadike@ksu.edu