I was listening to the news on my way to work earlier this week and heard about a gastrointestinal illness in Canada. Being my curious self I wanted to know more. Turns out most of the illnesses were reported in Toronto and, according to the story, it was likely related to food. The particular nasty critter thought to be responsible is “Cyclospora, a microscopic single-celled parasite that is passed in people’s feces. If it comes in contact with food or water, it can infect the people who consume it causing an intestinal illness called cyclosporiasis”. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention/Associated Press). So, as you can guess, this blog topic is going to be on food safety.

Everyone is at risk but as you age, your body is less able to fight off harmful bacteria. People age 60 and over are at greater risk of food poisoning and the related complications. In a nutshell, this particular parasite can hitch-hike on fresh produce so it is extremely important to wash all fresh produce very well under running fresh water.

Health Canada’s Recommendation for Fresh fruits and vegetables:
“Before you eat or cook fresh fruits and vegetables:
• gently wash them under cool, running, drinkable water
o you do not need to use anything other than water to wash fruits and vegetables
• use a scrub brush on fruits and vegetables that have a firm skin, such as:
o carrots
o potatoes
o melons
o squash
• avoid soaking fresh fruits and vegetables in a sink full of water. Sinks can contain bacteria that can be transferred to your food.”

I run the scrub brush I use on my fruit and vegetables through the dishwasher from time to time or soak in water with a little disinfectant and then rinse it well.

Health Canada and Dietitians of Canada have some good information on their websites and I’ve provided a couple of links to get you started if you are interested in learning more.

1. http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/healthy-eating-saine-alimentation/safety-salubrite/vulnerable-populations/older-adults-adultes-agees-eng.php
2. https://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Cooking/Food-Preparation/Everyday-tips-for-washing-vegetables-and-fruit.aspx