Summer is prime Salmonella season. Warmer weather gives that sneaky Salmonella more opportunity to contaminate your food. You’ve heard about large-scale salmonella outbreaks in eggs and peanut products, but there are lots of ways for this type of food poisoning to take hold, especially in summer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
None of this means you should give up on that family picnic in the great outdoors. With a few timely reminders of precautions you can take for a Salmonella-free summer, you can get out there and savor the season.
The CDC offers Seven Surprising Facts About Salmonella:
1. You can get Salmonella from eating a wide variety of foods, not just from eggs and undercooked poultry. Although poultry and eggs are primary culprits, Salmonella can be found in a variety of foods including ground meat, fruits, vegetables — even processed foods such as frozen pot pies.
2. Salmonella illness can sometimes be serious. In most cases, illness lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without antibiotic treatment. But, in rare cases, people may become seriously ill. Compared with other foodborne germs, salmonella is the deadliest. It also causes more hospitalizations as well.
3. For every one case of Salmonella illness that is confirmed in the laboratory, there are about 30 times more cases of salmonella illnesses that were not confirmed. Most people who get food poisoning usually do not go the doctor, and therefore don’t get laboratory confirmation of exactly what made them sick. So Salmonella can cause more illness than you might suspect.
4. Salmonella illness is more common in the summer. Warmer weather gives bacteria more opportunity to contaminate food. When eating outdoors in the summer, either in the backyard or on a picnic, follow these guidelines:
- Always keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
- When you’re finished eating, refrigerate leftovers promptly. Don’t let food sit out for more than two hours. On a hot day (90°F or higher), reduce this time to one hour.
- Be sure to put perishable items in a cooler or insulated bag.
5. You can get Salmonella from perfectly normal-looking eggs. Chicken feces on the outside of egg shells used to be a common cause of Salmonella contamination. To counter that, stringent procedures for cleaning and inspecting eggs were implemented in the 1970s. However, now there’s a new cause for concern. An epidemic that started in the 1980s and continues today is due to a type of salmonella that is inside intact grade A eggs with clean shells. This type of Salmonella can silently infect the ovaries of healthy appearing hens and contaminate the inside of eggs before the shells are formed.
6. To avoid Salmonella, you should never eat raw or lightly cooked (runny whites or yolks) eggs. Cooking reduces the number of Salmonella bacteria present in an egg. However, a lightly cooked egg with a runny egg white or yolk still poses a greater risk than a thoroughly cooked egg. Lightly cooked egg whites and yolks have both caused outbreaks of Salmonella infections.
7. Salmonella is more dangerous for certain people. Although anyone can get a Salmonella infection, older adults, infants, and people with impaired immune systems are at increased risk for serious illness. In these people, a relatively small number of Salmonella bacteria can cause severe illness.
…and these Six Tips to Keep Your Family Safer this Summer:
1. Clean. Wash hands, cutting boards, utensils, and countertops.
2. Separate. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods.
3. Cook. Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature: 145°F for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for three minutes before carving or consuming), 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry.
4. Chill. Keep your refrigerator below 40°F and refrigerate food that will spoil.
5. Don’t prepare food for others if you have diarrhea or vomiting.
6. Be especially careful preparing food for children, pregnant woman, those in poor health, and older adults.
Next: Not Much Progress on the Salmonella Front / More Summer Reading
Not Much Progress on the Salmonella Front
The CDC reports that each year, about one in six people in the U.S. gets sick from eating food contaminated with Salmonella and other germs. In the past 15 years, a dangerous type of E. coli has been cut almost by half. During that same time period, Salmonella, which causes more hospitalizations and deaths than any other type of germ found in food and $365 million in direct medical costs annually, has not declined.
Salmonella infection is particularly difficult to reduce because it is found in so many different types of foods and contamination can occur anywhere — from fields to cutting boards to kitchens. Our vast food distribution network makes it more challenging to pinpoint sources.
In addition to steps government can take to help reduce the incidence of Salmonella infection, there are things that the food and food-service industry can take to help:
- Use good management practices to reduce contamination when raising livestock or food animals.
- Adopt proven preventive measures for food safety plans in all food production and service facilities.
- Follow the US Food and Drug Administration Model Food Code in restaurants and other places that serve food.
- Keep good records of where foods and food ingredients come from.
- Train and certify managers in food safety in all restaurants.
Health care providers can:
- Diagnose and treat infections by using best practices and report them rapidly.
- Talk to high-risk patients about food safety.
- Report suspected outbreaks to your local health department.
Each of us can take some simple measures to get us closer to a Salmonella-free summer. Now pack up that picnic basket and let’s be careful out there!
Image copyright: istockphoto.com
Ann Pietrangelo is the author of “No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis,” a memoir. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and The Author’s Guild, and a regular contributor to Care2 Healthy & Green Living and Care2 Causes. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo