Your Health

Food Poisoning? Holy Guacamole! And Salsa, Too.

Salsa, pepper and chips

hide captionThere may be nasty bugs in your hot stuff.

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Two of our favorite snacks just got fingered as big sources of foodborne illness.

Yep, unfortunately for all you Mexican-food lovers like us, salsa and guacamole constitute "an important cause of foodborne outbreaks in the U.S.," researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at a big conference on emerging infectious diseases Monday.

You mean those jalapenos aren't enough to kill the bugs dead? Sorry, pardner.

Salsa and guacamole are chock-full of raw vegetables, such as hot peppers, tomatoes and cilantro, all of which have been implicated in outbreaks over the years.

The analysis of 25 years' worth of foodborne outbreaks reported to the CDC found 136 linked to salsa or guacamole or both. The researchers dubbed them SGA — short for salsa- and guacamole-associated — outbreaks. Nice. (For more info, search for "Board 12" in this PDF from the meeting.)

When big batches of salsa or guac aren't kept cold, contaminating microbes can grow like wild. Most of the outbreaks came from restaurant food, and hygiene, or lack of it for workers, was a big issue.

Before 1984, there were no reports of SGA outbreaks. But for the decade ending in 2008, the SGA outbreaks constituted nearly 4 percent of those tied to restaurants.

Oh, for what it's worth, the main offenders were salmonella (especially during the summer) and norovirus (especially during the winter).

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