Friday, April 15, 2011

Tasty but occasionally dangerous

If I asked you to name a food group that might be implicated in food poisoning, you would probably respond with "meat".  I did a survey (n=1) at home today and got that answer.  My wife thought a bit longer and said "Custard, but that's only because you have influenced me over the years".

Baked goods probably don't spring to mind as potential carriers of food poisoning bacteria.

In the last week, there have been reports from Rhode Island of zeppole, or St. Joseph's Day cakes, causing food poisoning by Salmonella.  I had never heard of zeppole before this report, but they are apparently popular in Italy, Sicily and Malta and in the Italian-American communities in the United States and date from the early 19th century.  They are deep-fried dough balls, or sometimes choux pastry, topped with powdered sugar or filled with custard, pastry cream or a mixture of butter and honey.  They sound delicious, though perhaps dangerous for the figure!

At the time of writing, there have been 76 cases and 29 hospitalisations.  Two people have died from Salmonella-associated illness.  It is too soon to say how this happened, but the possibilities include a carrier of Salmonella working as a food handler, or the use of ingredients contaminated with Salmonella.  The deep-fried pastry would probably be sterile immediately after frying, but could be contaminated by the food handler during the filling process.

Breads, fruit cakes and biscuits are usually pretty safe by virtue of low water activity, but filled pastries receive quite a lot of handling, while real cream may be contaminated with bacteria that rapidly grow under abuse temperatures to the point where they can cause food poisoning, either by infection or intoxication.


Terry said...

You know, I would never of though of filled pastries. I don't eat them myself, but my family does.

Tanvi Shinde said...

Came across this very interesting article this morning so, thought of sharing it. It is not about Salmonella or custard, but, it is about safety of poultry products against Campylobacter jejuni using apple-based packaging film with some active ingredients that help inhibit development of bacteria. check this out--

John said...

Interesting article, Tanvi, particularly as the film is obviously active below the growth temperature for Campylobacter. The film produces significant reductions in Campylobacter counts with the higher levels of active compound.
I'm going to copy your comment to the Campylobacter postings.

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