Spam musubis suspect in food poisoning
Nine people fall ill after buying from Maui stores
WAILUKU » State health officials are investigating the cause of stomach illnesses related to the consumption of Spam musubis on the Valley Isle.
Since July, nine people have become ill probably from food poisoning associated with Spam musubis sold at four stores in Central Maui, officials said yesterday.
Most of the ill have been children, ranging from ages 3 to 9, and two of them received emergency medical care, officials said.
Lorie Whitsett, a state epidemiologist, said none of the nine required hospitalization.
Whitsett said there appears to be no connection concerning food preparation at the four food establishments.
State officials said consumer mishandling of Spam, such as holding it without refrigeration for too long, could be the cause of some of the illnesses.
Health officials said Spam musubi and other similar bento food in stores are highly perishable and should be kept at safe temperatures -- either hot at 140 degrees Fahrenheit and above, or cold at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Health inspectors are conducting an investigation of retail and production establishments on Maui and also doing random visits on retailers to check if time and temperature requirements are being met.
For instance, if Spam musubi is put on the counter at room temperature, it should contain an end time and date for consumption, Whitsett said.
Whitsett said under state law, Spam musubi at room temperature has a four-hour consumption span, after which it should be discarded.
Health officials said refrigerating Spam musubi after purchase is not recommended because the product has already been held at unsafe temperatures, and bacteria, if present, could begin to multiply and cause illnesses.
Seven people suffered from food poisoning from Spam musubis purchased at three locations in Central Maui in November, health officials said.
Safety tips on the preparation and storage of perishable foods are available on the Health Department Web site at www.hawaii.gov/health.