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Tue, Apr 21
Mapping genomes to understand contaminated food
Last week, two companies issued national recalls of their products due to listeria contamination. For Sabra Dipping Company, which is recalling 30,000 cases of hummus, no illnesses or deaths have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) thus far. But for Blue Bell Creameries, the CDC has confirmed a small number of cases in Kansas, resulting in three deaths. The company has since expanded its recall as well as suspended operations at its Oklahoma plant. (The products being recalled are listed here.)
Food-borne illness is nothing new, but in the past it looked quite different. In 1911, 48 people died and 2,000 were taken ill with septic sore throat, the result of a Boston dairy that did not pasteurize. In 1924, raw oysters caused an outbreak of typhoid fever that claimed 150 lives in 12 cities. These are “diseases that now rarely occur,” wrote Robert Tauxe, the deputy director of the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases at the CDC, and Emilio Esteban, the head of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service Laboratories.