Fresh and Local Food Can Still Cause Food Poisoning

by Terry Bryant

We love farmers markets. Delicious, fresh fruits, veggies, etc. Real back-to-the-land kind of stuff (which many of us Texans long for). So much good flows from them. But be cautious. No need to get excited, but the recent E. coli (and other bacteriological) scares to our country’s food supply should remind us that not all farmers markets are the same. All consumers must be informed and wary of food safety issues and take precautions.

An East Texas woman died recently after eating contaminated oysters. The 56-year-old Jasper County lady caught a severe infection after dining on the shellfish harvested in the Gulf.  They were contaminated with bacteria called vibrio.

If you get any sort of food poisoning with vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea, any doctor will tell you to get to the emergency room right away. Waiting even an hour or two could spell disaster, especially for small children.

Medical (and legal) experts agree that in our warmer Gulf waters – thanks to global warming –microbial growth in oysters and other seafood accelerates noticeably! So it comes as little surprise why the past five years have seen more foodborne illnesses linked to shellfish than the two decades prior.

Salmonella, cyclospora, and E. coli are just a few of the headliners to a large number of bacteriological illnesses linked to food. And it seems like we’re introduced to a new one every other month. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) tells us that foodborne illnesses strike one in six Americans, hospitalizing over 125,000 and taking the lives of 3,000 every year.

So to help you remain vigilant, here are some safety tips that will make you a good family health inspector. Use them when browsing all those perishable farmers market goodies before you buy, and again once you get them home.

  • Keep your eye on the vendor, especially their hands. Plastic gloves are only part of the deal. They must change them when their hands move from raw to ready-to-eat or cooked foods.
  • Stay away from raw milk and raw milk cheeses…unless you can positively confirm that they have been pasteurized. And be wary of raw, uncooked eggs, too. The only way some will eat farmers market eggs is when they have been cooked hard-scrambled.
  • Buy perishables last. Most shoppers go for them first. But buying last gives microbes less time to grow. While we’re on this subject, bring your own coolers or plastic bags to wrap your foods separately when you store them during the ride home.
  • Handle with care and awareness.Everything you buy to eat should be WASHED THOROUGHLY under running water. Make sure hidden areas get the wash before eating, cutting, cooking, or storing, even if you peel them. ANY bacteria on the surface can be transferred to the inside. Rinse thoroughly when you bring them out of storage to prepare.

Also, rinse off fresh herbs. According to a published 2014 University of Washington study, almost a quarter of herbs such as basil, cilantro, and parsley tested positive for E. coli. Dry them after rinsing if you’re not using them immediately. That will help prevent bacteria growth. And store your perishables in sealable plastic bags. Remove as much air as possible before sealing.

If you or a family member has been a victim of a food poisoning accident, call an attorney. Terry Bryant Accident and Injury Law can get to the bottom of what could be a complicated investigation to find the negligent party, then advocate for you and your family’s full and fair compensation. Contact us anytime – day or night.