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Recalls of Spices Due to Bacterial Contamination Monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: The Predominance of Salmonellae

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From 1980 to 2000, the annual per capita consumption of spices in the United States increased by 60% (from 1.0 to 1.6 kg per person per year). Although spices are known to harbor various molds, fungi, and bacteria, relatively few reports have documented this group of foods as the cause of human illness. In recent years, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has noted an increased number of recalls of dried spices due to bacterial contamination. Accordingly, we reviewed spice recalls that took place in the United States from fiscal years 1970 to 2003. During the study period, the FDA monitored 21 recalls involving 12 spice types contaminated with bacterial pathogens; in all but one instance, the recalled spices contained Salmonella. Paprika was the spice most often involved in the recalls. A wide variety of countries were the source of the recalled spices. Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Salmonella Surveillance System, we were unable to discern any increases in the reported incidence of laboratory-confirmed salmonellosis in states that received spices contaminated with selected rare Salmonella serotypes. A variety of effective methods exist to disinfect spices, procedures that have attained increased importance given the frequent use of spices in ready-to-eat foods and the potential for contaminated spices to cause widespread outbreaks.

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, Washington, D.C. 20052 2: Foodborne & Diarrheal Disease Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333; Atlanta Research and Education Foundation, Atlanta, Georgia 30333 3: Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, College Park, Maryland 20814, USA 4: Foodborne & Diarrheal Disease Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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    First published in 1937, the Journal of Food Protection®, is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection® is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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