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Avoid Salmonella Sickness: Grow Your Own Herbs

Consumers need to be on their toes now more than ever as the bacteria outbreaks and food recalls show no sign of slowing down. If you have recently purchased parsley or Herbes de Provence from World Market, Walmart, or any other grocer in the United States, it may be part of the latest food recall. A customer tested as ample of High Quality Organics’ parsley, and salmonella was possibly discovered.

On October 12, Sauer Brands Inc. announced a voluntary recall due to the possible salmonella contamination. This announcement came after the herb supplier had certified that the raw materials it provided Sauer had tested negative for salmonella.

Once the company became aware of the potential contamination, they recalled any parsley products made with questionable raw material. Other Spice Hunter products that were manufacturers on the same two days that the salmonella-tainted parsley was produced. The company’s press release stated that  this was done “ out of an abundance of caution regarding potential cross-contamination.”

Recalled products

The 29 recalled products include particular lots of organic parsley, Saigon cinnamon, ground cloves, sesame seeds, Herbes De Provence, pumpkin pie spice blend, seafood seasoning blend, coriander, garlic, green hatch chile, Mexican seasoning, black pepper (ground and whole peppercorns), paprika, Szechwan seasoning, Chinese ginger, white pepper, garlic, everything bagel seasoning, chives, Italian seasoning, cilantro, whole fennel seeds, dill, arrowroot, and red cayenne pepper.

The products were manufactured for sale online (at spicehunter.com) and in retail. They were distributed for sale across 31 states: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. 

The recalled product names have specific item numbers and UPC codes. They include:

  • Cost Plus World Market Herbes De Provence in a 0.6-ounce package with the item number of 533310-06 and the UPC 2533 3107.
  • Cost Plus World Market Organic Parsley in a 0.3-ounce package with the item number of 533325-06 and the UPC 2533 3251.
  • Great Value Herbes De Provence Organic in a 0.6-ounce package with the item number of GV5451-24 and the UPC 0 78742 15451 0.
  • Great Value Organic Parsley Flakes in a 0.3-ounce package with the item number of GV5460-24 and the UPC 0 78742 15460 2.
  • O Organics Herbes De Provence Organic in a 0.65-ounce package with the item number of 14200102-24 and the UPC 0 79893 41131 6.
  • O Organics Parsley Organic in a 0.3-ounce package with the item number of 14200099-05 and the UPC 0 79893 41109 5.
  • Full Circle Parsley Organic in a 0.3-ounce package with the item number of 32831-06 and the UPC 0 36800 32813 0.

Don’t mess with salmonella

Although there have been no reports of illness connected to this latest recall, it is essential to be cautious as salmonella infections can become quite serious.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC), salmonella infections cause symptoms such as diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and headache. Symptoms begin anywhere from six hours to six days after infection and can last up to seven days. Severe cases may even require antibiotics or hospitalization. Most people recover just fine without treatment and with proper rest and plenty of hydration. If you have a high fever, persistent diarrhea, bloody stools, persistent vomiting, you need to call your doctor.

Stay safe, grow your spices

One of the best ways to stay safe from tainted food, including herbs and spices, is to grow your own. Growing herbs for spices is much easier than you might think, even if you don’t have much space. You can even grow your favorite herbs in a sunny kitchen window.

Growing herbs in a sunny windowsill is gaining popularity

Small space kitchen gardening or countertop gardening is a popular movement right now, with more and more people stuck at home and living in apartments, condos, and the like.  The good news is that many herbs are quite happy to grow in small containers, and they will reward you with a bountiful harvest with just a minimal amount of attention. Not only that, but you can’t beat the way beautiful greenery looks in your window on a cold winter day. Rest assured that whether you lack space, direct sunlight, or live in a frigid and unforgiving climate, you can still grow plenty of fresh food, including herbs.

Tips for growing herbs in containers

Here are a few tips for growing healthy and delicious herbs.

  • Select heirloom varieties of your favorite herbs. Choose herbs that you love to use and cook with frequently. When possible, use heirloom varieties that taste better than hybrid types.
  • Choose a container with good drainage. Most herbs are very unhappy with “wet feet.” Because of this, it is critical to pot your herb plants in a container that has excellent drainage. 
  • Choose a sunny location. Light is key to success when you grow any plant—position herb pots directly beneath a sunny window to maximize sunlight’s effectiveness. One of the great things about growing in containers is that you can move pots around as the seasons and light conditions change. Keep pots rotated so that plants don’t become leggy. If you don’t have any sunny windows, consider a grow light bulb. These are inexpensive and will help your herbs grow strong and healthy without sunlight.
  • Water and feed accordingly. Knowing what your plants require for food and water is essential to their health. Keep in mind that most plants die because of excessive attention, not a lack of attention. 
  • Harvest correctly. Wait patiently for your plants to mature before you harvest for the first time. Never harvest more than one-third of the plant at one time and wait for that third to grow back before harvesting. Remove any flowers that appear as they will get in the way of the flavor.
  • Prune. Picking herbs is like pruning, but your particular herb may require more. Do a little research and assess the best way to keep your herb plant shapely. Always use clean and sharp pruning scissors – never rip or tear your plant to keep it pruned.

The best way to turn your garden herbs into spices is to place fresh herbs on a cookie sheet and dry them in the oven for 2-4 hours at 180 degrees F or less. Check them regularly to see if they crumble easily. Use a grinder to make a fine powder and store them in an airtight container. Mix and match your favorite dried herbs to create unique culinary blends.

Happy growing!

Susan Patterson, Master Gardener, and Author

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Packaged Fruit Recall Has Walmart and Other Retailers Scrambling

The pre-cut fruit slices sold at Walmart and other grocers are handy – they are washed and cut, ready to eat. This must mean that they are safe right? Wrong. Like any other “fresh” produce found in the grocery store, they are susceptible to contamination by dangerous organisms like Listeria monocytogenes. 

That is exactly what has happened… once again grocers are scrambling to ditch inventory after a red flag warning went out after listeria monocytogenes was detected on equipment used to package the products. Country Fresh fruit packaged in plastic clamshell containers with the best-if-used by dates between October 3 and October 11, 2020, are at the center of this most recent fresh food recall.

Country Fresh packages pre-cut apples, grapes, mangos, pineapples, and cantaloupes and distributes them to various retailers, including Walmart. According to officials at Country Fresh,

“The recall is a precautionary measure due to a possible health risk from Listeria monocytogenes detected on equipment used in an area near where these products are packed. The FDA discovered these findings during a recent inspection.”

The potentially contaminated fruit was shipped to Walmart distribution stores and sent to stores in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Lousiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. More information on the recalled items and UPC numbers can be found here.  As usual, the FDA warned that consumers who have the recalled items should not eat them and discard of them immediately.

Consumers with questions about the recalls can call Country Fresh at 1-877-251-8300 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST.

Contaminated food may look perfectly normal

Fruit contaminated with  Listeria monocytogenes may look and smell perfectly normal but still cause severe and sometimes fatal infections. It is crucial for anyone who has eaten food possibly contaminated to monitor themselves for any sickness signs. Note that it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria to develop infection listeriosis symptoms. 

According to  Jennifer Hunter, MPH, DrPH, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC), 

“Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.” 

Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Severe headache
  • Stick Neck 

About 1,600 people are diagnosed with listeriosis each year, and about 16 %  die because of the infection.  Some people are more vulnerable, including persons with a weakened immune system, older adults, and pregnant women. Pregnant women are ten times more likely to develop an infection. The infection can also cause miscarriages, stillbirths, and preterm labor, along with serious illness and even death in newborns.

Remembering an unfortunate outbreak

The seriousness of listeriosis should never be overlooked. Brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen, Colorado’s Jensen Farms owners, were charged in federal court with the negligence that led to a 2011 listeria outbreak, caused by their Sweet Rocky Ford cantaloupes.

The 2011 outbreak killed 33 people and caused illness in 147 more across the United States. It has also been linked to one miscarriage. Six shipments of cantaloupe from Jensen Farms were responsible for the poisonings, which occurred in at least 24 states. The cantaloupe was recalled on September 14, 2011.

The listeria’s origin was traced back to a packing shed that the Jensens used to process their cantaloupe. Investigators found that the machine used in the processing was designed for cleaning potatoes. One of the processing steps was an antibacterial chlorine spray, which was never used on the cantaloupe before it was packaged and shipped.

A press release by John Walsh, U.S. Attorney of the District of Colorado, states that the Jensen’s cantaloupes were “prepared, packed and held under conditions which rendered it injurious to health.” Jensen Farms filed for bankruptcy in the months following the outbreak.

The #1 best way to protect yourself and your family

Not all farming operations are as careless as Jensen Farms was with their cantaloupe. However, this and other outbreaks serve as a wake-up call for us to be extremely careful about where our food is coming from.  Food recalls are part of our flawed food system. As long as you purchase fresh food at the grocery store, you are susceptible to infection. 

The absolute best way to stay safe is to grow your food. Maybe that sounds overwhelming to you, and perhaps you don’t have a big space to grow food or have little time to commit to such a pursuit. The good news is that it can be simple; growing a few fresh items at home not only protects your family from sickness but also saves you money. There is no need to have a massive amount of green space to grow food; you simply need the desire. 

It is possible to grow an edible garden even in a limited space. Through creative gardening techniques, people are growing enough food in a small vegetable garden to sustain their families, producing high yields in small areas. Some even have enough left over to sell and generate an income. All that’s required is some patience and smart tactics to get the most out of the space that you do have.

Are you ready to experience the joy of growing your food?  Let me show you how you can protect yourself and your family from dangerous outbreaks while successfully growing food in a tiny space.

– Susan Patterson, Master Gardener, and Author

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