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The fox is in the henhouse again.


In the same New England Journal of Medicine issue, the ever-present danger of salmonella infection was illustrated by an article describing this nation's largest-ever salmonella outbreak in a New York City hospital three years ago. During the two-week outbreak, 42 percent of this hospital's 965 patients were affected; of that number, 9 actually died from salmonella poisoning.

The source of the infection was a batch of raw eggs used to make mayonnaise in the hospital kitchen for patients on a low-sodium diet. Although prepared and refrigerated the day before it was used, the tuna-macaroni salad to which the mayonnaise was added was mixed five hours before being served and was left unrefrigerated. Commercially-prepared mayonnaise was used for a similar salad for patients on a regular diet, but the same paddle was used to mix, and thus infect, both salads.

The eggs were traced to a single farm corporation whose hens were found to be infected with the same salmonella type cultured from the patients. An embargo by the authorities against this corporation was lifted only after the company had cleaned up its operation. Nevertheless, the damage had already been done. The New York State Department of Health now recommends that all state healthcare facilities refrain from using raw or undercooked eggs in the diets of those most vulnerable to food poisoning--i.e., the institutionalized, the elderly, and those whose immune systems cannot fight unhealthy bacteria (e.g., AIDS patients).

No one knows for sure how salmonella bacteria get into eggs. One possibility is that eggs not properly cleaned before packing may be contaminated with feces either through a crack in the shell or during food preparation. It is also possible that the yolk may be directly infected from the hen's ovaries before the shell forms around the egg. In any case, raw eggs are a potential danger to your health, as well as to that of Sylvester Stallone, who guzzled an entire glass of them in the motion picture Rocky.
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Title Annotation:salmonella poisoning
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Sep 1, 1990
Previous Article:Narcolepsy update.
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