When you do grocery shopping or cook in your kitchen you don’t think about getting salmonellosis infection, do you? But you should. Because all foods – poultry, beef, milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables – can be contaminated with the bacteria from animal or people feces. The bacteria are transmitted to people when they eat contaminated foods.
The World Health Organization (WHO) report estimates the burden of foodborne diseases caused by 31 agents – bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins and chemicals – states that each year as many as 600 million, or almost 1 in 10 people in the world, falls ill after consuming contaminated food. 420,000 of these people die, including 125,000 children under the age of 5 years.
Salmonella is most widely spread bacteria, which is found naturally worldwide in the environment and in both cold-blooded and warm-blooded animals. Both animals and people can be carriers of Salmonella. Salmonella causes illnesses such as typhoid fever and salmonellosis, which are more common in summer than in winter. Anyone can get salmonellosis infection.
The symptoms of salmonellosis can feel like stomach flu, with diarrhea, vomiting and fiver, though it is not related to respiratory illness. The illness lasts about a week and doesn’t require any special treatments. In some cases, Salmonella can cause severe health conditions and even death.
The most common sources of Salmonella include: raw and undercooked meat and eggs, raw fruits and vegetables, unpasteurized dairy products, fish and shrimp, pet treats. Usually, contaminated foods have a completely normal appearance: they look, smell and taste normal.
So, there are 15 tips on handling foods that help protect you and your family from Salmonella:
1. While shopping or storing food, keep raw food in plastic bags to prevent it from making contact with other items in the grocery cart or fridge.
2. Buy cold or frozen foods at the end of your shopping trip. Don’t leave poultry sitting in the car or on a counter when you get home: bacteria grow fast at room temperature. Refrigerate or freeze it immediately.
3. Wash your hands with soap BEFORE handling any foods.
4. Wash your hands with soap AFTER: handling raw meat, using the bathroom, handling pets, touching pet foods and toys, being in contact with animal feces.
5. Always wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them.
6. Never wash poultry before cooking, because the bacteria can spread with water splashes everywhere around.
7. Cook poultry pieces to a safe internal temperature of 74°C, and whole poultry – to 82°C; use a digital food thermometer to check the temperature: remove your food from the heat and insert the thermometer through the thickest part of it and make sure that the thermometer is not touching any bones (they heat up more quickly and could give you a false reading). Don’t forget to wash the temperature in between testing.
8. Don’t eat undercooked poultry and meat that are pink in the middle.
9. Store meat, poultry and dairy products in the coldest section of the fridge. Avoid overstocking the refrigerator, so that cool air can circulate effectively.
10. Don’t drink unpasteurized juice, cider, milk and milk products.
11. Never place cooked food on the unwashed plate that held raw meat, poultry or fish.
12. Thoroughly clean knives, cutting boards, utensils, and work surfaces that you used to prepare poultry, raw meat and other foods.
13. To prevent spreading of bacteria and the risk of cross-contamination, use paper towels to clean the kitchen surfaces; also try to avoid using sponges, as they are bacteria-accumulators.
14. Refrigerate or freeze all poultry leftovers within two hours to minimize the chance of bacteria growing
15. Keep kids and pets away from food preparation areas.