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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Hospital Food Contaminated With C. diff

C. diff in Retail Foods continued...

A 2008 CDC study concluded that "although they share similar clinical features, evidence suggests that the predominant strains causing C. diff [disease] in humans and different animal species are distinct."

Overall, though, surprisingly few studies have examined the possible link between C. diff disease in food, animals, and humans, according to both the CDC and Koo.

So the researchers tested about 2 tablespoons of each food item served over 80 days at a university hospital in Houston. The number that tested positive for C. diff:

  • Four of eight (50%) turkey samples
  • Four of 12 seafoods (33%)
  • Two of 17 beef servings (12%)
  • One of eight pork servings (13%)
  • Six of 14 chicken and egg products (43%)
  • Six of 27 vegetables and fruits (22%)
  • None of two grains
  • Three of five desserts (60%)

The researchers did not actually trace any case of illness to contaminated food, Cohen notes.

"I'm not surprised that many of the foods tested positive," he says, pointing to the studies finding C. diff in retail meats.

But whether it is causing infection is another story, Cohen says.

"It may be contributing but it is not a driving force," he says.

To be on the safe side, though, make sure your food is cooked thoroughly, as high temperatures should kill the spores, Cohen says.

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary, as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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