UH Ad­vises: Rinse Foods Well

MidWeek Islander (West Oahu) - - Letters - By JES­SICA GOOLSBY

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.

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