More people are adding fresh herbs to their recipes as the health properties of these flavorful plants are discovered. Such herbs as rosemary, basil, and oregano provide more than just flavor, they may also have disease protective properties. But what if those fresh herbs can also make you sick? This just might be the case. A recent food study showed that some packaged fresh, ready-to-eat herbs are contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.
Contamination of these fresh herbs with Salmonella bacteria is of considerable concern since salmonella can lead to a type of food poisoning characterized by nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Although most cases of Salmonella food poisoning are not fatal, if Salmonella bacteria infects an elderly person or a child with an immature immune system, the infection can enter the bloodstream and become life threatening.
When researchers tested ready-to-eat fresh herbs, they found around a half of a percent of the samples tested positive for up to ten different types of Salmonella bacteria. Fortunately, these fresh herb packages were removed from circulation so they wouldn’t reach grocery store shelves and potentially cause illness.
What steps can you take to avoid developing illness if you use fresh herbs? Although most people wash fresh vegetables, fruits, and other produce before using them, they are less likely to thoroughly clean fresh herbs. This is a mistake since fresh herbs are often used raw as garnishes which leaves bacteria intact unless the herbs are thoroughly washed.
To reduce the risk of herb contamination with Salmonella bacteria, choose your fresh herbs carefully. Look for ones that appear clean and undamaged at the grocery store. Always rinse them thoroughly in cool running water before cooking or serving them. Refrigerate any leftover herbs immediately after use and disinfect all cutting boards you used to prepare them for your recipes. Also be sure to disinfect any utensils that touched the herbs. Before serving, cut away any areas of damage you see on the herbs.
Although these steps may reduce the risk of contamination with Salmonella bacteria, even washing them may not remove one hundred percent of the bacteria. If you use a lot of herbs in your recipes, you may want to consider growing your own fresh herbs. They can be easily grown in a small space such as a windowsill that receives direct light. You can also purchase an Aerogarden which allows you to grow larger quantities of fresh herbs on your kitchen counter.
Don’t take any chances with your health. Keep your family safe from Salmonella bacteria by handling fresh herbs in a safe manner or, better yet, grow your own.