28 Salmonella Infections from Kratom the Tip of the Iceberg

July 16, 2018 Articles, Kratom Research, News, Op-Ed

We now know that the FDA has declared kratom an opioid and that it has issued a warning, telling the public to avoid kratom use. This is due, at least in part, to the salmonella outbreak that was traced back to kratom products.

In February, the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) linked 28 illnesses from salmonella to products containing kratom. These salmonella infections occurred across 20 states, making it a far-reaching outbreak that many feared could become an epidemic.

California had the highest number of recorded cases with three illnesses traced back to kratom. The FDA swiftly appealed to the responsible kratom vendors to voluntarily recall their tainted kratom products.

After one kratom vendor repeatedly failed to voluntarily recall their kratom, the FDA issued an unprecedented mandatory recall, forcing the company to comply with their demands.

As a lot of people already know, kratom comes from the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa plant and is an Ayurvedic herb that has been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years in its native Southeast Asia. Locals in the region have used it to treat chronic pain, diarrhea, night shift work disorder and many other common maladies.

Nevertheless, the FDA has been working in concert with the DEA to effect a kratom ban and legislation has now been passed that could give the DOJ (Department of Justice) the power to schedule kratom as a controlled substance, effectively eliminating researchers’ ability to study the potential health benefits of the herb and deny consumers access to this natural supplement.

All of this is occurring despite recent research by High Point University that further demonstrates the low addiction potential and medicinal potential of kratom.

The FDA’s use of the salmonella outbreak to justify a kratom ban is myopic, to say the very least, and shrewd to say the very most. After all, salmonella outbreak and similar food-borne illnesses are a constant occurrence and not all of them are isolated incidents.

Sure, adulterated kratom products causing illnesses across 20 states may seem far from isolated, but when one considers the fact that the kratom products involved came from a select group of kratom vendors, it begs the question, “Why come after the kratom plant because of a couple rotten apples?”

It is worth pointing out that there have been over 200 recalls, market withdrawals and safety alerts in 2018. Of those listed on the first page of the FDA’s list of such recalls, only two were for kratom products and the reason for said recalls was listed as “potential salmonella contamination.”

Funny that kratom vendors come under fire for telling their sites’ visitors about the “potential” health benefits of the kratom plant, but the FDA can recall products because of “potential” salmonella contamination.

This is to say nothing of the bigger picture. Cat foods have been recalled because of Listeria contamination which leads to E. coli. Pharmaceuticals have been recalled due to evidence of NDMA, a semi-volatile compound which is potentially hazardous. Probiotics have been recalled for containing undeclared allergens.

In terms of salmonella, everything from Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and fresh cut cantaloupe to farm raised frozen whole tilapia fish and grated coconut has been recalled for either causing salmonella or possibly containing salmonella.

The Natural Grocers grocery store chain had to recall Vitamin Cottage Natural Food Markets’ Coconut Smiles Organic in 19 states after a salmonella outbreak earlier this year. Health food fanatics were less than pleased when River Valley Sprouts had to recall its alfalfa product due to a salmonella outbreak.

Perhaps most significantly, pre-cut melons are believed to have been the source of 60 salmonella illnesses across 5 states which shows that the kratom outbreak pales in comparison to other recent incidents of salmonella.

What this and the Kellogg’s outbreak demonstrates is that kratom is no more nor less of a threat, at least in terms of potential contamination, than the things we consider breakfast staples and mid-afternoon snacks. It is also obvious that the kratom outbreak was just the tip of the iceberg where salmonella illness is concerned.

The FDA doesn’t want American vendors to be able to import kratom from Malaysia and elsewhere around the world, but unsurprisingly, the US continues to export fresh crabmeat from the failed socialist state of Venezuela, even after it has led to at least 12 known food-borne illnesses.

There are a number of mitigating factors when it comes to food-borne illnesses. For instance, those who are most susceptible to such illnesses are pregnant women, young children and the elderly. Those in the kratom community are not uneducated or ill-advised individuals.

A cursory look at any kratom thread or message board shows that kratomites are cool people with a passion for knowledge. They want to know everything there is to know about kratom and they are committed to finding the best sourced kratom they can.

These are not the type of people who would be foolish enough to take kratom while they are with child nor are they the sort of people who would encourage the underage to use kratom. Although many older adults do make up a portion of the kratom community, they are generally well-aware of the risks and purported benefits of kratom.

The top five risk factors that lead to such outbreaks are improper hot/cold holding temperatures, improper cooking temperatures, dirty or contaminated utensils and equipment, poor employee health and hygiene, and food from unsafe sources.

Most reputable kratom vendors source their kratom from trusted farms or plantations. Many of them have been doing business with the natives of Southeast Asia for years if not more than a decade. The very best kratom vendors maintain safe, secure facilities, invest in third party lab testing to ensure purity and regularly conduct quality control on all of their incoming kratom inventory.

This is especially true of kratom vendors who offer bulk kratom powder. Those of us who support kratom and kratom advocacy are doing all that we can to eliminate any potential for adulteration or contamination.

Kratom powder should always be kept in refrigerated conditions to maintain freshness. Facilities should be free of direct exposure to UV rays to ensure potency and oxidation should be kept to a bare minimum.

The best kratom vendors in 2018 know that it is imperative that you store kratom in a sealed, safe storage facility where the plant material is unable to degrade or face potential contamination. Those handling kratom powders should always be wearing gloves, masks and caps.

Vacuum-sealed bags, dehumidifiers and mini-freezers should also be used wherever possible. Kratom should always be kept dry in a secure space. Those who are serious about kratom safety can easily avoid a potential salmonella outbreak by following these basic principles.

Be safe, be smart and be well.

Bob Freville
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