Do you pay attention to food recalls?

It seems like food recalls have become the norm, whether they’re about undeclared ingredients on a food label or possible foodborne illness. But how much attention do you really pay to these recalls? The latest involves mangoes grown in Mexico which may harbour the bacteria Salmonella.

If you live in Ontario, you may glanced over the recall stories in the media as they state that the affected mangoes were sold in the Western Provinces and Territories – or at least that’s what the headlines of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Health Hazard Alert stated and that’s how it was reported. The word “may” describing where the areas where they could be sold was left out of the headlines.

As it happens, my daughter, who lives in Toronto, checked her mangoes for the sticker bearing PLU# 4959 anyway and there it was. As she had purchased her mangoes at Costco, a retailer with large sales volumes, you can bet that there are many mangoes in Ontario possibly carrying Salmonella.

While the mangoes may look fine, they should be discarded or wrapped in a bag and returned to the store.  If your mangoes have been ripening in your fruit bowl along with other fruit, wash it well. And be sure to wash your hands well with hot soapy water for about 20 seconds – or the time it takes to sing happy birthday- , keeping in the mind that it’s the suds that lift germs off your hands to be washed down the drain.

Paying attention to recalls can help you to ward off foodborne illnesses such as salmonella – a bacteria which can have serious and sometimes deadly consequences for certain population groups: young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

For healthy people, it’s no picnic either. Short-term symptoms can include high fever, severe headache, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Long-term complications may include severe arthritis.

But mangoes may not be the only culprit lurking on the scene.

Cantaloupes are another fruit that tend to make the headlines, over the years, due to a number of reports of the rind being tainted with bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. But if you handle and prepare these melons and other fruit properly, cantaloupes can offer top notch nutrition with very little risk.
Firstly, when you select the melon in the supermarket, put it into a plastic bag so that you don’t contaminate your shopping bag or other purchases.  When you get home, put the melon straight into the sink so that you can scrub the rind thoroughly.  Even though you don’t eat the rind, when you cut through it, the knife can then contaminate the flesh.

Washing any fruit with a rind or peel that you will cut through makes sense. Just think about where that fruit has been. How many times have you put an unbagged large watermelon in the trunk or on the floor of your car so it doesn’t roll around? Or how many people do you see handling a melon, giving it slaps to check for ripeness or lifting it to check its weight? Then  as you may slice through the dirty rind, the knife will come into contact with the flesh of the melon.
Also, if you don’t already, consider washing other produce with rinds or peels, even lemons, oranges and other citrus. And while it may at first, seem overwhelming to do this with all your fruit, keep in mind that once you get into the habit of always washing these items, it won’t seem like as much of an inconvenience at all.

Are you in the habit of washing all your fruit?  Do you pay attention to food recalls? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Categories: Food Safety

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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