Photo: nyxie, Flickr
Next time the waitress offers you chips and dip at your local Mexican joint, it may be wise to take a pass -- and not just for your waistline.
The Centers for Disease Control released a report that found that contaminated salsa or guacamole were responsible for nearly 1 in every 25 outbreaks of food-borne illness in restaurants from 1998 to 2008, MSNBC.com reported.
The rate nearly doubled over the previous decades, officials said.
"Fresh salsa and guacamole, especially those served in retail food establishments, may be important vehicles of food-borne infection," Magdalena Kendall, a researcher at Tennessee's Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education told MSNBC.com.
Individual ingredients in the tasty dips have also been linked to salmonella outbreaks including peppers, tomatoes and cilantro.
Researchers examined records starting in 1973 and found their first salsa or guacamole-related illness case in 1984. They found 136 "dip-related outbreaks" and 84 percent were linked to restaurants or delis, MSNBC.com reported.
Between 1984 and 1997, the dip-related illnesses made up about 1.5 percent of disease outbreaks tied to restaurants. Between 1998 and 2008, however, that number spiked to nearly 4 percent. About 5,560 people were sickened, 145 hospitalized and three died from the outbreaks, MSNBC.com reported.
Salmonella, norovirus and shigella were the top culprits. About 25 percent of the infections were of unknown origin.
"Awareness that salsa and guacamole can transmit food-borne illness, particularly in restaurants, is key to preventing future outbreaks," Kendall said in a press release.
Incorrect storage times and temperatures were found in about 30 percent of reported cases, and food workers were responsible for contamination in about 20 percent of cases, MSNBC.com reported.