Improper Food Preparation Linked to Infection in Buffalo Children
Albany, December 28, 1995 -- State and local health officials are investigating increased reports of intestinal infections in the Buffalo area linked to the preparation of chitterlings.
Officials suspect the product, prepared from pork intestines, is the link between seven recent cases of yersiniosis, a potentially serious illness often associated with consuming or handling raw meat or unpasteurized milk. Yersiniosis is a bacterial disease that usually infects the intestinal tract. The illness produces severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever. Sometimes, symptoms mimic appendicitis.
Because a similar outbreak occurred last year, state health officials are issuing a general warning about the importance of proper sanitary practices when preparing chitterlings.
In January 1995, an outbreak of yersiniosis in Buffalo infected 12 people and resulted in one death. Thus far, the latest outbreak has affected only children, including six infants. In five of the cases, family members said they recently had served chitterlings.
Although the infants did not consume chitterlings, health officials suspect their food or formula was contaminated by exposure to yersinia bacteria on hands, utensils, or countertops during food preparation. To avoid such cross contamination, it is important to wash hands and utensils with hot, soapy water and disinfect all food preparation surfaces with a solution of bleach and water after cleaning or handling chitterlings.
To warn Buffalo-area consumers of the potential risk, the New York State Department of Health, Erie County Department of Health and New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets have distributed information about safe handling practices to local meat markets. The notices advise people to:
- Wash hands carefully before preparing baby bottles or feeding infants;
- Thoroughly clean hands, utensils and any surfaces that have come into contact with raw chitterlings during food preparation;
- Prevent children from touching raw chitterlings or contaminated surfaces;
- Consult a physician if a child develops fever and diarrhea, and someone in the family has recently prepared chitterlings.
Health officials stress that chitterlings are safe to eat when properly handled and cooked. However, yersinia bacteria can easily be transferred from pork entrails to humans, so careful handwashing and disinfection of contaminated surfaces is essential after preparing chitterlings.