With numerous recalls of eggs, peanut butter, and produce in the news each year, many Americans are reminded of the risk of salmonella infection. Infection by Salmonella, a group of microscopic bacteria that can be transmitted from the feces of animals to humans, can cause diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and sometimes death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that about 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported each year in the United States, though this number could be up to thirty times greater due to unreported cases. Approximately 400 of these cases result in death.
While these statistics may seem troubling, the risk of salmonellosis can be reduced by following proper food safety preparation and handling procedures as recommended by the CDC.
Thoroughly cook meat, poultry and eggs.
Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs, which can include homemade Caesar dressing, Hollandaise sauce, and other homemade dressings, homemade mayonnaise, homemade ice cream, tiramisu, cookie dough, and frosting.
Do not eat or drink unpasteurized milk or dairy products.
Avoid cross-contamination of foods by keeping raw meats separate from other foods; immediately wash hands, utensils, cutting boards and work surfaces with soap and water after contact with these uncooked foods.
Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water after contact with feces, birds, baby chicks, and reptiles, even if the animals are healthy.
Breastfeeding is the best way to prevent salmonellosis and other infections in young infants.
Reptiles including iguanas, lizards, snakes, and turtles in particular are prone to Salmonella infection; thus avoid direct or indirect contact with them in every way possible. The elderly, infants, and immunocompromised people are the most susceptible to developing severe cases of salmonellosis, thus use special caution when preparing and dealing with their foods.
For more information on Salmonella bacteria and salmonellosis, visit the CDC website.
Every Monday, the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers tips for preventing disease and injury, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check back each week for new tips or visit our archive.