Is Nothing Sacred Anymore? FDA Warns Bar-B-Q and Dessert Lovers to Guard Against E. coli

On June 19, 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned consumers not to eat any varieties of prepackaged Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough due to the risk of contamination with E. coli O157:H7. As of June 25, the CDC reported that 69 persons from 29 states have been infected with the outbreak strain. Thirty-four persons have been hospitalized, nine with a severe complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome. No one has died.

On June 25, 2009, the FDA found E. coli O157:H7 (a bacterium that can cause serious food borne illness) at Nestle’s facility in Danville, Va. in a sample of prepackaged Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough currently under recall by the manufacturer and marketer, Nestl USA.

The FDA is warning anyone who has any Nestle cookie dough product in his or her home freezer, refrigerator or elsewhere should throw out the product immediately. Individuals should wash their hands thoroughly after handling the product. The product should not be baked, eaten raw, or handled unnecessarily.

The FDA has a number of Food Safety Facts for Consumers posted on its website. One such post is titled, Eating Outdoors, Handling Food Safely, especially appropriate this time of year. The post contains tips on how to pack and transport food safely, quick tips for picnic site prep, safe grilling tips, and serving picnic food: keep it cold/hot.

As the FDA explains: Picnic and barbecue season offers lots of opportunities for outdoor fun with family and friends. But these warm weather events also present opportunities for foodborne bacteria to thrive. As food heats up in summer temperatures, bacteria multiply rapidly.

One primary piece of advice concerns preventing “Cross-Contamination” when serving, particularly important to remember when serving cooked foods from the grill – Never reuse a plate or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood for serving unless they’ve been washed first in hot, soapy water. Otherwise, you can spread bacteria from the raw juices to your cooked or ready-to-eat food. Be sure to keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood securely wrapped to keep their juices from contaminating prepared/cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables.

Outdoor hand cleaning is another important item: If you don’t have access to running water, simply use a water jug, some soap, and paper towels. Or, consider using moist disposable towelettes for cleaning your hands.

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