Wednesday, May 14, 2014


I have just finished making a spicy bean and corn salad. Normally I use fresh chilies but it's very hot today - too hot for slaving in the kitchen, my chili plants died while we were on vacation, and I was rushed - as usual. So I used chili powder. Then I checked my backlogged mail. What I found was yet another alert from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about a finding of Salmonella bacteria in chili powder. The US Trading Company of Hayward, California (quite close to where I live) is recalling its Dragonfly Brand Crushed Chili Powder in 6.3 ounce plastic tubs.

Why these bacteria would want to live in such an unpleasant environment beats me. But they do. In fact, testing of the U.S. food supply, which includes spices, has found several such cases lately both in chili and other spices (see my previous post). Because spices are usually least likely to be suspected, it could well be that many more of the 1.2 million annual U.S. illnesses from Salmonella in our food are caused by spices than we know.

Remember too that some Salmonella are now showing a high degree of antibiotic resistance (such as a fairly recent one in chicken). So that's yet another reason to avoid them. The best way to do so in spices, of course, is to always cook your spices in your food (which will kill any bacteria that are present), and to avoid dishes such as fresh (yes, delicious) salsa in restaurants and that chili pepper shaker for your pizza.

So did I toss out the bean and corn salad? Well, no. Since I bought that chili powder some time ago, and have already used it several times (though almost always in cooked food), I argued to myself that it was safe. Besides, my husband had already eaten it (I had not). If he comes down with symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning in the next few days, I'll at least know what to suspect!

In the meantime, I don't think I'll tell him, and hope he doesn't read this post....

To your good health.


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