CDC: Salmonella outbreak may be linked to sushi


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is monitoring an outbreak of salmonella that has left 90 people sick in 19 states, and the common thread at this point appears to be sushi.

Three cases have been reported in Texas, but the good news is that none were reported in Harris County or Houston. Right now, it looks like the culprit may be spicy tuna, and it happens to be one of the most popular items on the menu.

Thad Hethcox is the general manager at Azuma Sushi Restaurant on Kirby. He says spicy tuna is one of the most popular dishes and thus far no one has reported getting sick after eating it.

Hethcox says there is a key to keeping raw fish safe.

"Lots and lots of ice, as soon as products come in, frozen products go right in the freezer, things on ice get repackaged in our containers with fresh ice," Hethcox said.

While local restaurant are not yet effected, the CDC is monitoring an outbreak of salmonella that has sickened 90 people in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

The CDC has not pinpointed the exact cause; however many of the ill persons said they had eaten sushi, sashimi or similar foods before becoming sick

Fortunately, local diner are safe thus far.

"We have not identified any cases that might be associated with a sushi salmonella outbreak at all," said Kathy Barton the Houston Health Department.

Barton says restaurants that serve raw food must follow tougher requirements that traditional eateries.

"They have to have lots of different cutting boards and tools to make sure there is no cross contamination and then the product has to be acquired from a reliable source, a licensed source; it has to be frozen for a certain period of time and it must be kept cool -- and they have to document all of this," she said.

Sushi restaurant managers tell us many restaurants use fresh fish in their dishes, but some use fish that is prepackaged.

"If they feel concerned about it, go ahead and ask about it; reputable places will be sure to let them know, and give them the honest word. We always use fresh fish here," Hethcox said.

Even though no reports have been made in our area, health department officials say the very young, the very old and those with liver and kidney problems should avoid uncooked seafood at all times.

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