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Shigella & Shigellosis

Foodborne illness can be caused by numerous pathogens. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has designated Shigella species as one of the “Big Six” microorganisms that can cause severe foodborne illnesses. Shigella outbreaks have been linked to both food handlers working while ill and contaminated foods. Foodservice establishments and retailers need to be aware of this microorganism and how to protect food from contamination.

About Shigella

  • Humans are the most typical hosts of Shigella species, as it is not usually found in gastrointestinal tracts of other animals.
  • There are several strains of Shigella that cause a gastrointestinal disease called shigellosis that can damage the intestines.

Transmission, Symptoms & Statistics

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are approximately 500,000 cases of shigellosis annually.
  • Shigella is transmitted easily from person to person through the fecal-oral route. Shigella infection can be transmitted through any foods touched by an infected food handler who prepares food that is served without further cooking. Not washing hands after using the toilet or changing a diaper are ways hands can be contaminated with Shigella bacteria.
  • Foods harvested from Shigella-contaminated waters (shellfish) or grown in fields that use contaminated irrigation water on produce could also result in illness, especially if these foods are eaten raw.
  • Foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to Shigella species have included various salads (tuna, chicken, turkey, shrimp, and potato), strawberries, spinach, raw oysters, milk, luncheon meats, pudding, and rice balls.
  • Symptoms of shigellosis infection include: sudden severe diarrhea that is sometimes bloody, fever, severe abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting.Immunocompromised individuals, the elderly, and the very young are the most susceptible.
  • On-set time is 24 to 72 hours after exposure.Illness usually lasts 5 to 7 days; however, it can cause long-term health effects such as reactive arthritis, an autoimmune disease.

Keep Your Operations & Customers Safe

  • Have strong supplier approval programs that verify suppliers: monitor produce growers for Good Agricultural Practices; verify shellfish are not harvested from contaminated waters; have HACCP programs and intervention programs to reduce and prevent Shigella contamination; have trace-back capabilities; and are in compliance with all federal and local regulations.
  • Ensure an approved water supply is used for all food facility operations.
  • As preventive measures, have in place HACCP plans and Standard Operating Procedures for produce washing, hand washing, personal hygiene, and sanitation.
  • Have an employee wellness policy to exclude employees with symptoms of foodborne illness, such as vomiting and/or diarrhea.
  • Maintain facilities so there is no sewage backflow, an imminent health hazard. Require the food establishment to close if this occurs in a food preparation area.
  • Follow-up on any customer foodborne illness claims without delay and notify health department of multiple reports immediately.

5 Must-Know Facts for Location Employees

  1. Wash hands thoroughly, especially after using the restroom. Pay special attention to scrubbing fingernails, between fingers, and wrists.
  2. Wash raw vegetables and produce before preparing or eating.
  3. Cook all foods to safe internal temperatures. Remember that seafood and produce represent special Shigella risks. Cook seafood to 145°F and vegetables to 135°F.
  4. Use gloves, tongs, or deli paper to prevent bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat-foods.
  5. If you have any symptoms of foodborne illness, such as vomiting and/or diarrhea, inform your manager and do not work.

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