Effect Measure

A picture worth a thousand 378 barfs

I must confess to a (possibly unhealthy) fascination for the topic of food poisoning. You know the kind. First you’re afraid you’re going to die. Then you’re afraid you’re not going to die. When I taught the food sanitation course I loved showing 1960s US Army “barf films” meant to train food handlers. I could never figure out if it was real vomit coming out of the mouths of the recruits hanging over the sides of their barracks cots or staged. I still don’t know.

Anyway, with such obsessions you can understand why my attention was drawn to the story of salmonella poisoning that occurred last week among people eating Hoomus Shirazi at the Pars Cove Persion Cuisine booth at the Taste of Chicago outdoor fair (stay with this one; it’s got a bizarre and creepy twist):

As of noon Friday, 378 people had called claiming symptoms of salmonella poisoning, up from 126 Thursday, officials said. Thirty-two cases have been confirmed through laboratory analysis as salmonellosis, with more tests pending.

About a dozen have been hospitalized for dehydration, diarrhea or fever.

Officials determined at least one “and perhaps the only” source of the bacterial poisoning was a dish of herbs, tomato and cucumber known as hummus shirazi, and ordered Pars Cove to stop serving hummus while a full-scale investigation proceeds. (Chicago Tribune)

The dish, as described, didn’t sound like hummus (a dish of mashed chickpeas and sesame oil). It sounded more like tabouleh, at least to my non-Middle Eastern experience. So I googled Hummus Shirazi and what came up was a report of the same Taste of Chicago event on a site called Vegan Diva:

We took a Metra train into the city and hopped on a free trolley to Grant Park for the Taste of Chicago today. It was fun and I will definitely go back next year. Vegan options weren’t plentiful but we enjoyed most of the ones that were available.

[snip]

I plotted out our route ahead of time so I knew the locations of the booths we wanted to visit. We started off at Pars Cove Persian Cuisine’s booth for a taste portion of their Hummus Shirazi. It is “fresh herb-tomato-cucumber salad over a bed of hummus”. It was served with a tiny pita wedge and cost 3 tickets. It was yummy! (Vegan Diva)

And what do you know! Pictures of the booth and the Hummus Shirazi. Yummy:

Pictures removed: Alas, the Vegan Diva has demanded that “the stolen pictures” be removed. My view was that taking a few pics from a much longer post with many more pics was “fair use” but I don’t want to start a fight with another blogger. If this were a big publisher I’d dig in my heels but she apparently took offense (I’m not sure why). If you want to see the pics you can just go to her post here.

Comments

  1. #1 baryogenesis
    July 15, 2007

    Aside from the usual sloppy procedure in food-handling (such as raw chicken and then prepping veggies, not keeping hands clean and prep surfaces separate) it’s common in North America to add mayo to tahini sauces and possibly hummus. Mmmmmm, mayo in a dish on a warm summer day…

  2. #2 Blake Stacey, OM
    July 15, 2007

    OK, baryogenesis, now you’re going to make me hurl.

    (Incidentally, pictures of vegan food always remind me of why I am an unrepentant omnivore. If God didn’t want those animals eaten, then why did He in his Triune splendor make them out of meat?)

  3. #3 Nat
    July 15, 2007

    I was a bit worried that the picture series was going to end in the same manner as the title of the post.

  4. #4 revere
    July 15, 2007

    Nat: Rest assured, if I’d found a picture of the actual vomit/bloody diarrhea from this stuff . . .

  5. #5 Nomen Nescio
    July 15, 2007

    salmonella aside, that hummus salad does look delicious. prepared more carefully, as an appetizer to some nice roast lamb or veal…

  6. #6 Melanie
    July 15, 2007

    Um, revere, I’m not sure that photo would be work safe…

  7. #7 kathleen
    July 15, 2007

    Or, perhaps they used this delicious tahini in the preparation of the treat:

    http://www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/nspired05_07.html

  8. #8 revere
    July 15, 2007

    Melanie: it would be fine where I work. Blood and guts is our mainstay.

  9. #9 bar
    July 16, 2007

    On the authority of my vegan daughter, I have learned that Adolf Hitler was a vegan.

  10. #10 jay
    July 16, 2007

    Oh LOOK!, I think I see the salmonella. Look closely at the third pic. See all of the little specks. They seem to congregate on the cucumber pieces. Maybe it was just the cucumbers?

  11. #11 Kat
    July 16, 2007

    “Mmmmmm, mayo in a dish on a warm summer day… ”

    Actually, it’s not the mayo that makes potato salad more likely to spoil, it’s all the surface area on all the food in the dish. Mayo is pretty acidic and won’t grow bacteria that easily on its own (not that I’ve ever tested this)… it’s all the potato and eggs and pickles that you’ve chopped up, scattered across your cutting board, and picked up with your fingers that makes it more likely to spoil.

  12. #12 Peter McGrath
    July 16, 2007

    What was it Dr Johnson said? “Cucumber should be chopped, dressed in pepper and vinegar and thrown away as being good for nothing.” It passed for a gag in those days. The front of the stand looks like someone’s used the cloth to clean up after an – ah – attack.

  13. #13 Bill Heck
    July 16, 2007

    From above: “If God didn’t want those animals eaten, then why did He in his Triune splendor make them out of meat?”

    I’m reminded: “The learned fool writes nonsense in better language that the unlearned – but it’s still nonsense.” – Benjamin Franklin

  14. #14 Bob
    July 16, 2007

    Why have canine teeth if you’re not supposed to use them?

    I’d be interested in knowing if there was a time-correlation for the 378 victims. Like, if you got the hummus shirazi early in the day or later. Of course, it may be some Salmonella Mary, working at various restaurants…

  15. #15 AJS
    July 17, 2007

    And thus was the lie given to the mortality-denialists’ oft-repeated mantra that only m**t-eaters ever suffer food poisoning …..

    I have heard that cats (among other animals) will go blind and die in screaming agony if fed on a vegetarian diet, as they require the amino acid taurine which only occurs in m**t; but they cannot manufacture it from other amino acids. (We humans can do that — some even live long enough on a vegetarian diet to die of something else.)

    Does anyone know if it would be possible for a human being to have a disorder which prevented them from manufacturing taurine, thus turning them into an obligate carnivore? And is there a medical name for this condition?

  16. The mayo thing might be a good explanation to the surprising fact that people got salmonella from hummus. Salmonella does not attack vegetables.

  17. #17 Annodeus
    July 17, 2007

    Poor Vegan Diva apparently was among the nearly 500 people who got sick. See her latest post at http://vegandiva.wordpress.com/.

  18. #18 PennyBright
    July 17, 2007

    Cross-contamination is my bet. Either the robo-coupe used to make that batch of hummus, or in storage. Storage at food shows is *hell*, and all it would take is one bucket of marinating chicken sloshing over and you’ve got exactly this scenario.

  19. #19 Phila
    July 17, 2007

    Why have canine teeth if you’re not supposed to use them?

    Why have a penis if you’re not supposed to stick it in anything with a hole and a heartbeat?

  20. #20 Phila
    July 17, 2007

    The mayo thing might be a good explanation to the surprising fact that people got salmonella from hummus. Salmonella does not attack vegetables.

    I’m guessing that if it had mayo, Vegan Diva wouldn’t have eaten it.

  21. #21 OmegaPaladin
    July 17, 2007

    I ate there, actually. Thankfully not the hummus. Though the picture isn’t appetizing, I’d hardly say it’s barf worthy.

  22. #22 Nomen Nescio
    July 18, 2007

    Does anyone know if it would be possible for a human being to have a disorder which prevented them from manufacturing taurine, thus turning them into an obligate carnivore?

    if it’s possible for cats to survive whatever mutation knocked out that synthesis system, i guess something similar should be possible for humans too. (provided you’re right about taurine synthesis failure being the reason cats are obligate carnivores. i’ll take your word for it, but i guess there might be other reasons.)

    but in our case, it wouldn’t necessarily turn us obligately carnivorous; we’d just need a steady dietary supplement of energy drinks.

  23. #23 MoM
    July 18, 2007

    The link posted by Annodeus is busted. Try this one:

    http://vegandiva.wordpress.com/2007/07/17/betrayed-by-hummus/

  24. #24 revere
    July 18, 2007

    Update coming tomorrow morning.

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