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Salmonella Questions & Answers: How to Keep Your Kitchen Safe

With Wednesday and Friday’s egg recall announcement due to salmonella poisoning, many consumers are left wondering how they can keep their families safe from salmonella.  The United States Food Safety and Inspection Service has published a series of questions and answers describing the ABC”s of salmonella.  What is salmonella?  what are the symptoms of salmonella poisoning?  and, how can you keep your kitchen safe from salmonella?  are among the questions answered through their website, with answers excerpted from the United States Center for Disease Control website.  Here are a few of the most pertitent questions and answers from these two goverment offices, as related to keeping your home kitchen salmonella safe in light of these recent outbreaks.

Salmonella” bacteria are the most frequently reported cause of foodborne illness. In order to reduce salmonellosis, a comprehensive farm-to-table approach to food safety is necessary. Farmers, industry, food inspectors, retailers, food service workers, and consumers are each critical links in the food safety chain. This document answers common questions about the bacteria “Salmonella,” describes how the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is addressing the problems of “Salmonella” contamination on meat and poultry products, and offers guidelines for safe food handling to prevent bacteria, such as “Salmonella,” from causing illness.

Q. What is Salmonella?
A. Salmonella is a gram-negative, rod-shaped bacilli that can cause diarrheal illness in humans. They are microscopic living creatures that pass from the feces of people or animals to other people or other animals. Strains that cause no symptoms in animals can make people sick, and vice versa. If present in food, it does not usually affect the taste, smell, or appearance of the food. The bacteria live in the intestinal tracts of infected animals and humans. Salmonella bacteria have been known to cause illness for over 100 years. They were discovered by an American scientist, Dr. Daniel E. Salmon.

Q. What is salmonellosis (aka salmonella poisoning)?
A. Salmonellosis is an infection caused by the bacteria Salmonella. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), salmonellosis causes an estimated 1.4 million cases of foodborne illness and more than 500 deaths annually in the United States.

Q. What are the symptoms of salmonellosis?
A. Most people experience diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 8 to 72 hours after the contaminated food was eaten. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms usually disappear within 4 to 7 days. Many people with salmonellosis recover without treatment and may never see a doctor. However, Salmonella infections can be life-threatening especially for infants and young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and older adults, who are at a higher risk for foodborne illness, as are people with weakened immune systems (such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and transplant patients).

Q. How do people get salmonellosis?
A. Salmonella lives in the intestinal track of humans and other animals, including birds. Salmonella is usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Salmonella present on raw meat and poultry could survive if the product is not cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature, as measured with a food thermometer.  Salmonella can also cause foodborne illness (salmonellosis) through cross-contamination, e.g., when juices from raw meat or poultry come in contact with ready-to-eat foods, such as salads. Food may also become contaminated by the unwashed hands of an infected food handler. Salmonella can also be found in the feces of some pets, especially those with diarrhea. People can become infected if they do not wash their hands after contact with these feces. Reptiles are particularly likely to harbor Salmonella. People should always wash their hands immediately after handling a reptile, even if the reptile is healthy.

Q. How can consumers prevent salmonellosis?
A. Bacteria on raw foods of animal origin do not have to cause illness. The key to preventing illness at home, in a restaurant, at a church picnic, or anywhere else is to prevent the bacteria from growing to high levels and to destroy the bacteria through cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature. Follow these guidelines for safe food preparation:

CLEAN:

  • Wash Hands and Surfaces Often
  • Wash your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets.
  • Wash utensils, cutting boards, dishes, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.
  • Consider using paper towels to clean kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

SEPARATE:

  • Don’t Cross-contaminate
  • Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in your grocery shopping cart and in your refrigerator.
  • If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Always wash cutting boards, dishes, countertops, and utensils with hot soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood.

COOK:

  • Cook to Safe Temperatures
  • Use a clean food thermometer when measuring the internal temperature of meat, poultry, casseroles, and other foods to make sure they have reached a safe minimum internal temperature:
  • Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts, and chops to 145 °F.
  • All cuts of pork to 160 °F.
  • Ground beef, veal and lamb to 160 °F.
  • Egg dishes, casseroles to 160 °F.
  • All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
  • Stuffed poultry is not recommended. Cook stuffing separately to 165 °F.
  • Leftovers to 165 °F.
  • Fish should reach 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Bring sauces, soups, and gravy to a boil when reheating.
  • Reheat other leftovers thoroughly to at least 165 °F.

CHILL:

  • Refrigerate Promptly
  • Keep food safe at home, refrigerate promptly and properly. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods, and leftovers within 2 hours (1 hour if temperatures are above 90 °F).
  • Freezers should register 0 °F or below and refrigerators 40 °F or below.
  • Thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Foods should not be thawed at room temperature. Foods thawed in the microwave or in cold water must be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature before refrigerating.
  • Marinate foods in the refrigerator.
  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator.
  • Don’t pack the refrigerator. Cool air must circulate to keep food safe.

To see a specific list of brands recalled by the Wright County and Hillandale egg recall, click here.

Excerpted from The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service Website. For more information regarding salmonella, and steps you can take to keep your family free from this bacteria, visit the U.S. Center for Disease Control Website by clicking here.

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