Arrowroot starch from SVG tests positive for salmonella bacteria in USA
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August 15, 2014

Arrowroot starch from SVG tests positive for salmonella bacteria in USA

Tests are said to be continuing on 38,000 lbs of arrowroot starch from St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), which reportedly tested positive for salmonella bacteria in the United States.

The shipment, valued at US$266,000, left SVG about six weeks ago, Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday evening.{{more}}

The minister said that about 14 days ago, the purchaser of the starch notified the Government that the starch had been sold to a buyer, and when that company tested it, the starch was found to contain salmonella.

The Government of SVG has already been paid half of the purchase price (US$133,000) for the starch.

Caesar said on being notified, the Government immediately contacted the University of the West Indies to run their own tests on starch that had been left back from the shipment, as they did not want the testing to be done by national labs, as that would not be considered independent.

“We did a test through the Cave Hill campus [of the University of the West Indies] and the starch that we tested was what was left back from what we sent, and they found that that sample does not have salmonella,” the agriculture minister said.

“We sent the purchaser the results of the starch that we had, and the situation now is that the starch may have been contaminated sometime between leaving the factory at Orange Hill and arriving at the person the purchaser sells to.”

Caesar said he suspects the starch may have been contaminated during shipment, as the purchaser said some of the bags of starch he received had water marks on them.

“There is a strong possibility that the container may have been compromised during shipment.

“We know what we put in the container, that all the bags were in order. And he will know that he took out of the container, five bags with water marks…,” the minister said.

“So, what they are doing now is that they are still in the process of taking samples to see how widespread the contamination is.”

The minister said for now, the Government will work on the matter through the Embassy of St Vincent and the Grenadines in Washington, but if needs be, technical officers from the Standards Bureau, the Ministry of Industry and the Arrowroot Association, who are on standby, will travel to the United States.

St Vincent and the Grenadines produced 42,000 lbs of arrowroot starch this year, up from 36,000 lbs in 2013.

Arrowroot starch is an easily digested, silky starch, which is used as a thickener in many foods, such as puddings and sauces, and is also used in cookies and other baked goods.

Salmonella bacilli can cause diarrhoeal illness in humans and is responsible for over 50 per cent of all human infections in the USA. Some salmonella strains that exist in humans can make animals sick, and vice versa. The bacteria live in the gut of infected humans and animals.