Hold the guacamole: Food poisonings on the rise

There is bad news this week for lovers of spicy Mexican cuisine: Salsa and guacamole have emerged as some of the fastest-growing causes of food-borne illness, according to a study released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Between 1998 and 2008, there were twice as many food-borne outbreaks associated with salsa, guacamole and pico de gallo than there had been in the previous decade, the CDC found.

Researchers named several possible factors behind the jump. Salsa and guacamole are often made in large batches, so even a small amount of contamination could affect many people; they tend to sit outside of refrigerators for long stretches of time; and they’re both made with raw ingredients, including tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and cilantro, all of which have been singled out as causes of prior outbreaks.

Thankfully, the CDC has no plans to make us all eat tired tacos and bland burritos. That said, researcher Magdalena Kendall stressed that “awareness that salsa and guacamole can transmit food-borne illness, particularly in restaurants, is key to preventing future outbreaks.”