Urgent warning from food safety expert about where you keep your spices as MAYO kills one and infects 75

Dr. Darin Detwiler, a food safety expert at Northeastern University in Boston and a former food safety advisor to the FDA and USDA, shared tips for storing condiments such as mayonnaise

Food safety experts are warning Americans against keeping condiments like mayonnaise, pesto and barbecue sauce in the pantry after an international outbreak of deadly bacteria.

Earlier this month, health officials in Saudi Arabia sounded the alarm after 75 people fell ill with botulism. a rare foodborne pathogen that attacks the body’s nerves.

Of these cases, 11 were hospitalized and 20 required intensive care monitoring. One person died.

The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) discovered that the poison that causes botulism Clostridium Botulinum was found in mayonnaise sold at the Hamburgini chain in the capital Riyadh.

Dr. Darin Detwiler, a former FDA and USDA advisor and food safety expert at Northeastern University in Boston, told DailyMail.com that while botulism is rare in the U.S., “the severity is high,” making proper herb storage essential.

“Condiments, including mayonnaise, can be at risk if not handled or stored properly,” he said.

Mayonnaise is an egg-based condiment, making it vulnerable to bacteria such as C botulinum and salmonella if not stored properly (stock image)

Mayonnaise is an egg-based condiment, making it vulnerable to bacteria such as C botulinum and salmonella if not stored properly (stock image)

Claudia Albuquerque Celada became ill with botulism after eating contaminated soup, which experts say was the result of improperly heating it

Doralice Goes became paralyzed after eating pesto contaminated with botulism

Claudia Albuquerque Celada (left) and Doralice Goes (right) were both infected with botulism and paralyzed after eating contaminated food

Botulism is caused by a toxin released by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which is normally found in mostly harmless spores in soil, marine areas and on the surface of foods such as fruits, vegetables and seafood.

These bacteria produce spores, which act as protective coatings, which are usually harmless.

However, warm and wet, cramped spaces without oxygen, such as plastic pots and cans, can cause the bacteria to release toxins that attack the central nervous system.

Spices with a risk of foodborne illness

  • mayonnaise
  • Aioli
  • Pesto
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Salsa
  • Horseradish
  • Nut butters
  • Tahini
  • Jam
  • Jelly

Store these ingredients in the refrigerator after opening. Exact times vary, but many last several weeks or months if properly refrigerated

The CDC estimates that only 200 cases of botulism occur in the US each year, and only 25 of those come from food, making it virtually rare.

It is unclear what other ingredients were in the contaminated mayonnaise and whether the eggs were pasteurized, meaning they were heated to high temperatures to kill bacteria such as C-botulinum.

Dr. Detwiler notes that when it comes to botulism, “it’s usually the eggs” that are responsible.

“Botulism thrives in anaerobic (oxygen-free) environments,” he said.

‘Improperly sealed containers or poorly stored mayonnaise can create favorable conditions for the growth of Clostridium botulinum.’

Boiling eggs kills this bacteria, but condiments such as mayonnaise, aioli and hollandaise contain raw eggs. This means they can still contain harmful pathogens.

Dr. Detwiler noted that the risk is greatest for homemade mayonnaise because it is more likely to contain unpasteurized eggs.

“However, commercial mayonnaise usually contains pasteurized eggs, which reduces this risk,” he said.

To combat this risk, Dr. Detwiler urges that you should always store mayonnaise in the refrigerator after opening, although unopened condiments can be stored in the pantry in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight.

Keeping these types of herbs at room temperature for a long time increases the growth of bacteria, so keeping them in the refrigerator will stop that growth.

And if you’re making mayonnaise from scratch, he recommends consuming it within a few days, and the FDA recommends throwing out perishable foods that have been left at room temperature for more than two hours.

Dr. Detwiler suggested keeping the pesto in the refrigerator in addition to mayonnaise because it contains basil, cheese and mustard.

Even barbecue sauce can be at risk because it “contains sugar and other perishable ingredients that benefit from refrigeration.”

Dr. Detwiler also urged consumers to keep an eye out for bulging or leaking containers on shelves, as these are “signs of bacterial activity, which may include Clostridium botulinum.”

‘Do not use these products.’

And avoid returning unused portions of mayonnaise and other perishable condiments in their original packaging. “This prevents contamination of the entire container,” he says.

Dr. Detwiler warned that signs of botulism include difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, double vision, drooping eyelids, blurred vision, slurred speech, difficulty breathing and difficulty moving the eyes.

Foodborne infections can also cause vomiting, nausea, stomach pain and diarrhea.

“Botulism is potentially fatal if not treated quickly,” said Dr. Detwiler. ‘Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial.’