The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

July 12, 2010
Hold the salsa and guacamole, please. It may be tainted.

GUACAMOLE.JPGHere's a depressing finding for Mexican food lovers. Research from the Centers Disease Control suggests that "nearly one out of every 25 restaurant-associated foodborne outbreaks with identified food sources between 1998 and 2008 can be traced back to contaminated salsa or guacamole." That's more than double the rate of the previous decade.

Apparently the likely source of the contamination in fresh salsa and guacamole is diced raw tomatoes, hot peppers and cilantro -- each of which has been connected to past outbreaks. Improper storage and refrigeration aggravates the problem and was reported in 30 percent of such cases originating at restaurants and delis. Food workers are thought to be the source of contamination in 20 percent of cases.

The CDC says awareness of the health risk associated with fresh salsa and guacamole will help remind cooks at restaurants and at home to follow guidelines for safe preparation and storage. This will go a long way in reducing the incidence of contamination and pathogen growth.

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About The Public Eye

Welcome to The Bee's newest blog: Public Eye. In the coming months, you will see us breaking news here as well as following up on investigations we have published with tidbits, news breaks and behind-the-scenes descriptions of our news-gathering process. Know of a wrong we could right? Send our fraud squad your tips at: fraudsquad@sacbee.com.

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