a healthy salad may not be as safe as you think. You may not know it, but
certain micro-organisms could be part of the Caesar, Thousand Island or Ranch
dressing of the salad you're eating. It could transmit helminthiasis, a common parasitic infection wherein one or more
species of helminths take up residence in the body.
According to a journal
published by the International Association for Food Protection, waste-water
irrigation was cited as one way of contaminating fruit and vegetables with
food-borne pathogens (Steele et al, 2004). Fresh or minimally processed fruit
and vegetables can be sources of disease-causing bacteria, protozoa and
salad vegetables like tomatoes, onions, lettuce and cucumbers, which are major
crops grown in waste-water irrigated fields, are widely used uncooked in salads.
Helminth eggs and bacteria present in waste water can contaminate these
vegetables and pose a health risk to consumers. While washing usually removes
dirt and bacteria from raw produce, you cannot be entirely sure how clean and
vegetables are unless you clean them yourself.
According to Dr. Vicente Belizario, Jr., a doctor of tropical medicine and
professor of the Department of Parasitology in the College of Public Health in
UP Manila, helminth infection is more common in warm, tropical climates, which
is ideal for their survival and transmission.
adds that roundworm infection and other parasitic diseases result from a lack of
appropriate personal hygiene and sanitation measures. Roundworms enter the body
via unwashed or contaminated raw food or picked up from soil.
on the other hand, enter the body via contaminated drinking water or through
bare feet. The larvae migrate to the small intestine, where they survive by
taking nutrients from the intestinal walls.
infections may result in on-and-off abdominal pain or discomfort. The
consequences of chronic intestinal helminth infections may include poor
cognition skills, lack of concentration, anemia, malnutrition, incessant
coughing and a life-threatening condition wherein several worms inadvertently
coil and around one another, creating ball-like formations called boluses, and
block narrow passageways such as the intestines.
Helminth infection can occur in anyone, regardless of age and income bracket.
But the good news is, it is preventable and treatable. Here are few precautions
to prevent parasitic infection:
separate cutting boards for meats, veggies and breads. Helminth eggs from
contaminated produce can seep into the board and contaminate anything else
you put on it.
cleanse with soap and water the cutting knives and chopping boards used on
Vegetables, fruits, meats, etc.
your hands thoroughly after working in the garden.
vegetables and fruits thoroughly, particularly salad items, as they may
you can, steer clear of salad bars. They may contain improperly washed
produce that can transmit helminth eggs that will hatch in the body.