December 31, 2014 — This year had some familiar culprits in outbreaks of food poisoning, such as soft cheese and bean sprouts. However, there were also a few unexpected outbreaks linked to caramel apples and chia seed powder.
Here are the top 5 news stories involving outbreaks of food poisoning in 2014, as selected by our editorial team.
1. Cyclospora Outbreak in Texas
For the second year in a row, Texas was hit hard in an outbreak of the parasite Cyclospora, which can cause chronic, watery diarrhea for months if not properly treated. Of the 300 illnesses reported by the CDC in August, 133 (64%) were in Texas.
No recalls were issued, but about 57% of infected individuals in Texas reported eating cilantro in the 2-14 days before getting sick. In 2013, a similar outbreak in Texas was linked to cilantro imported from Mexico.
2. Caramel Apples
Just before Halloween, a deadly outbreak of Listeria was linked to pre-packaged, commercially-produced caramel apples. About 32 illnesses occurred in 11 states, including five deaths. Nine infections occurred in pregnant women, and three invasive infections (meningitis) occurred in children under 15 years old. Three companies who received apples supplied by Bidart Brothers also issued recalls.
3. Bean Sprouts
In August 2014, an outbreak of Listeria was linked to mung bean sprouts from Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. When the FDA inspected the facility in August and October, they uncovered evidence of unsanitary conditions and isolated the outbreak strain of Listeria. Four illnesses were reported in Illinois and one in Michigan, including two people who died.
In December 2014, another outbreak infected a total of 111 people in 12 states with Salmonella. About two-thirds of people interviewed reported eating bean sprouts at Asian-style restaurants. A recall was issued by Wonton Foods, Inc. of Brooklyn, New York.
4. Chia Seed Salmonella
An outbreak of Salmonella infected 31 people in 16 states, including five who were hospitalized. It was the first outbreak linked to organic chia seed powder, which is made from sprouted chia seeds that are sprouted, dried, and ground. Five companies issued recalls.
5. Food Safety Summit
In perhaps the most ironic outbreak, chicken marsala was blamed on an outbreak of food poisoning at the nation’s biggest food safety conference, resulting in attention-grabbing headlines in national news. About 216 attendees of the Food Safety Summit in Baltimore were infected with Clostridium perfringens.
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