Today’s lurking kitchen danger: salsa and guacamole

In addition to being the most exciting things in the world when you’re high, salsa and guacamole are also super efficient at transmitting foodborne illnesses, the CDC would like you to know.

Before you hit up your favorite Mexican joint or tear into a bowl of freshly made avocado dip while watching Zombieland, you might want to check out some illuminating if highly unappetizing factoids about the popular cold foods. One of every 25 restaurant-associated foodborne outbreaks stems from the tasty, tasty Mexican relishes of doom, for instance:

“Fresh salsa and guacamole, especially those served in retail food establishments, may be important vehicles of foodborne infection,” says Magdalena Kendall, an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) researcher who collaborated on the CDC study. “Salsa and guacamole often contain diced raw produce including hot peppers, tomatoes and cilantro, each of which has been implicated in past outbreaks.”

Salsa and guacamole haven’t always been this dangerous, though- outbreaks have been on the rise in recent years:

CDC began conducting surveillance for foodborne disease outbreaks began in 1973, yet no salsa- or guacamole-associated (SGA) outbreaks were reported before 1984. Restaurants and delis were the settings for 84 percent of the 136 SGA outbreaks. SGA outbreaks accounted for 1.5 percent of all food establishment outbreaks from 1984 to 1997. This figure more than doubled to 3.9 percent during the ten-year period from 1998 to 2008.

Improper storage was cited in 30% of the outbreaks- circumstances like insufficiently cold temperatures or old prepared guacamole and salsa. 20% of cases, grossly, were attributed to worker hygiene. The CDC says following proper procedures at home can keep you from salsitis, but if you’re eating salsa or guacamole in a restaurant, it’s pretty much a dice roll.

[CDC via Consumerist, image]