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Is your salad dressed with something else?
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by: Celebrity Recipes Magazine

Eating 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 helminths.

Most 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.

He 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.

Hookworms, 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.

Early 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:

  • Use 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.

  • Thoroughly cleanse with soap and water the cutting knives and chopping boards used on Vegetables, fruits, meats, etc.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after working in the garden.

  • Wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly, particularly salad items, as they may harbor parasites.

  • Whenever you can, steer clear of salad bars. They may contain improperly washed produce that can transmit helminth eggs that will hatch in the body.

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September 22, 2017

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