Cyclospora in Produce: Parasite, Not Stomach Virus, Sickens Hundreds

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Salmonella is caused by a bacteria that is a common food-borne illness. Image by Elapied

What is Bacteria?

Bacteria are ten to 100 times larger than viruses, and are shaped like balls or rods. Most bacteria have a ring of DNA surrounded by the cellular makeup that’s contained in a fatty membrane.

Bacteria eat proteins, sugars, and fats, and can live and multiply in the environment and other types of bacteria need human hosts to survive.

Depending on the type of bacteria, some can double their number every 15 minutes while others may take months.

Some examples of common food-borne illnesses that are caused by bacteria include, Salmonella, E.coli, listeria, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter.

What is Fungi?

Fungi can be different shapes and sizes, and like parasites they have a nucleus, organelles, and DNA. Fungi can be found in the soil, on plants, trees, and other vegetation, and even on our skin, mucus membranes, and in our intestinal tract. Not all fungi are harmful to our health, but some can cause mold to grow on our food when conditions are right, and that mold can make you very sick.

Protecting our Food

With parasites, viruses, bacteria, and fungi infecting our food, you might worry about eating at all! The United States government has rules and regulations in place to monitor and ensure healthy food – the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011.

This new act shifted the focus from responding to food contamination, to focusing more on preventing food contamination.  This law also provides the FDA with new enforcement authorities to ensure the compliance of food regulations and to better respond to problems when they do occur. The 2011 law gives the FDA new tools to hold imported foods at the same high standards as domestic foods. The law will also build an integrated food safety system in partnership with the state and local authorities. As they say, “the best treatment is prevention.”

Resources:

Antimicrobial Test Laboratories. Introduction to bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Accessed July 29, 2013.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About Parasites. Updated November 2, 2010. Accessed July 29, 2013.

FDA. Food Safety Modernization Act. Updated July 26, 2013. Accessed July 29, 2013.

Food Safety. Bacteria and Viruses. Accessed July 29, 2013.

FOX News. Stomach virus linked to produce has now sickened 285 people in 11 U.S. States. July 26, 2013. Accessed July 29, 2013.

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