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Salmonella in my Oregano?

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Salmonella in my Oregano?

While purchasing some items at the local Food Lion, I ran across one of those haphazardly posted messages displayed only with a sad single piece of tape holding it up to a random post behind the cashier. It was a recall notice for McCormick Oregano.  I was totally blown-away! What could possibly get in oregano that would cause it to be recalled?

A little investigative journalism (I googled it) on my part led me to the conclusion that Salmonella was to blame.

Interesting. What exactly is Salmonella? Well according to the CDC it is:

Salmonellosis is an infection with bacteria called Salmonella. Salmonella germs have been known to cause illness for over 100 years. They were discovered by an American scientist named Salmon, for whom they are named.

How can it spread? It can be spread by feces, unwashed hands, and improper handling of chickens and reptiles.

Where does McCormick get its oregano? Excellent question. Apparently, they get most of their ground oregano (the one on recall) from Turkey. 

My guess as to how salmonella got into my oregano:
1. Someone in Turkey has an oregano field next to a chicken farm (or is the same owner) and salmonella seeped over. After all, at least 6.6% of all imported spices contain salmonella (regardless of process type) [pg 126]. 2. Either at collection (in Turkey) or processing/packaging (at the US factory) someone probably did not wash their hands well enough. Indeed, at least 10% of US spice processing/packaging facilities have salmonella [pg. 127].

Here is the interesting thing, salmonella in spices is nothing new! According to the Food Safety Network, a spice recall is issued at least once a year. Black Pepper and Turmeric have also been hit with recalls in the past couple years. Filth and adulteration in imported and domestic spices happen enough that the FDA issued a risk profile to better understand the problem.

Problems in the food supply are simply an outcome of a global food supply chain. The more the food supply chain stretches across the world the more likely the chance of a problem. Though local food suppliers are not immune to such problems. However, it may be easier to deal with the local farmer who relies on the local community for support rather than a corporate entity who relies on the world.

What can you do? Some would argue to buy local or grow your own food. While, I am a big fan of both such an option is not available to everyone.  I’d suggest proper washing and cooking and following the CDC guidelines.