A three-month tempeh Salmonella outbreak has broadened, reportedly sickening 83 people. The illnesses have been linked to a recall by Smiling Hara of Asheville, North Carolina of its 12-ounce packages of unpasteurized soybean tempeh.
According to the Citizen-Times, many of the cases—62—have involved Buncombe County residents. “We do know there’s still transmission going and believe that it is all person-to-person at this point,” Sue Ellen Morrison, disease control supervisor for the Buncombe County Department of Health, told the Citizen-Times. “At this point, we’re just urging people to be vigilant about hand washing and food preparation. We just can’t say that enough,” she added.
Agriculture officials isolated the Salmonella strain that began sickening people in February—Salmonella paratyphi B. That strain has been linked to one ingredient, a starter culture that was distributed by Tempeh Online of Rockville, Maryland to an area company that sells Smiling Hara Tempeh, said Citizen-Times.
The Paratyphi B strain is a rare Salmonella that has a 30-day incubation period; most other Salmonella strains have a 10-day incubation period, noted the Citizen-Times.
Morrison noted that separate cutting boards and food preparation surfaces should be used when preparing meat substitutes, such as tempeh, in the same way as is recommended when preparing meats and raw fruits of vegetables. “Meat substitutes are something that we didn’t even have in a category in the interview process,” she told the Citizen-Times. “It was because one of our nurses ate tempeh (as part of her regular diet) and discovered this sort of anecdotally that we were able to address this so quickly.”
The FDA is investigating the outbreak, but has not been able to determine or release information as to where the starter culture was produced; however, said the Citizen-Times, most tempeh starter is imported from Indonesia, which is where the protein originated. As we’ve explained, Tempeh, which is made from soybeans, is a meat substitute typically used in vegetarian cuisine.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) previously wrote that the recalled Smiling Hara tempeh involved was manufactured from January 11, 2012 through April 11, 2012. Containers are marked with a best-by date of 7/11/12 through 10/25/12.
The most common symptoms of Salmonella poisoning—salmonellosis—are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever, with symptoms manifesting, usually, within six to 72 hours. Additional symptoms include chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting that can last up to seven days. The illness usually lasts four to seven days; however, in some, the organism can invade the bloodstream, becoming so severe that hospitalization is required. Sometimes, infection with the Salmonella pathogen can result in, and produce more severe or chronic illnesses.
Salmonella can be dangerous, even deadly, leaving sufferers with serious life-long health issues. Salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial food borne illnesses, can be especially life threatening to those with weakened immune systems, such as infants, the elderly, and persons with HIV infection or who are undergoing chemotherapy.