UH Advises: Rinse Foods Well
A pattern of recent cases of disease in Hawaii caused by eating fresh produce has drawn attention to a new food-borne threat in the Islands: the nematode parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis— the rat lung worm.
The UH Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources recently warned that eating fresh produce contaminated with snails or slugs infected with rat lung worm can cause eosinophilic meningitis. A publication on measures to reduce the spread of the infection on farms is now available from its Web site, www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/fre epubs/pdf/FST-39.pdf.
Slugs and snails become infected with rat lung worm in two ways, the publication explains. Most commonly, the slug or snail will eat contaminated rat feces. Less commonly, the nematode burrows into the slug or snail through the body wall or enters through a respiratory pore when the animal comes into contact with the contaminated feces. Other vectors of infection are frogs, freshwater shrimp and land crabs.
Commercial growers are urged to take precautions to reduce the risk of transferring the pathogen to consumers. Mitigating contamination is vital on both farms and in home gardens. Remove the pests’ hiding places, trap and kill them and discard any produce with visible pests or their slime.
To avoid infection, consumers should carefully rub, while rinsing, all produce before eating it, sanitize food-contact surfaces and cook potential hosts — such as culinary snails or freshwater prawns — to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit before eating.