How do you Avoid Salmonella?
A recent Salmonella outbreak involved slicer cucumbers produced in Baja California and Mexico. In this most recent incident, there have been over 550 cases in the past few weeks with 3 deaths. California has had the highest number of infections while Wisconsin ranks 5th out of 33 impacted states. More than half of the cases have occurred in children under 18 years of age.
While the stats can be scary, there are things you can do to help avoid Salmonella. Marc-Oliver Wright, a clinical infection control practitioner at UW Health, offers tips to help.
To start, however, a quick science lesson.
Salmonella refers to a group of rod-shaped bacteria which include a number of species such as Salmonella typhi (which causes Typhoid fever) and the two most common forms in the United States, Salmonella enteriditis and Salmonella typhimurium. The specific bacteria in the recent cucumber outbreak is Salmonella poona. Salmonella bacteria are generally transmitted by eating contaminated food.
Every year more than 40,000 adults and children in the U.S. are diagnosed with Salmonella infection, but most people think the actual number is a lot higher because some cases are not diagnosed. Salmonella infection and other foodborne-illnesses are usually treatable especially when diagnosed early on. Illness almost always includes diarrhea, vomiting and/or fever but can also include feeling dizzy, abdominal cramps, chills, headache and sometimes blood in your stool.
Salmonella can be found in natural hosts (animals or people that carry Salmonella on or in them but don't get sick) and can contaminate food through the production or processing. The most common foods for Salmonella to be found in are eggs, poultry (chicken) and red meat, but outbreaks in the past have included peanut butter, tuna and even pine nuts.
Whose at Risk
The elderly, the very young and those with weakened immune systems should be especially careful and seek medical attention without delay. A delay in diagnosis and treatment can turn quickly regardless of age. As always, if your condition is a medical emergency you should contact 911.
How do you Avoid Salmonella
It's important to clean and/or cook all foods thoroughly to kill any bacteria (including Salmonella) and to pay attention to food recalls. Tips for washing your fresh produce. A great resource for safe purchasing, handling, storage and preparing of foods is the website www.foodsafety.gov.
How to Wash Your Vegetables
- Wash your hands with soap and water before handling or preparing food
- Rinse produce gently under running water (soaps and commercial produce washers are not necessary) and thoroughly dry produce with clean cloth or paper towel.
- Use a clean vegetable brush for firm produce like squash or cucumbers and do all this before peeling or cutting the produce to avoid contaminating the knife or kitchen utensils used to prepare the food.
It's also a good idea to segregate foods in your kitchen. For example, if you're making a chicken and vegetable stir fry, it might be best to cut your vegetables away from where you cut your raw chicken and if that's not possible to stagger the two preparations and clean your cutting board(s) and knives thoroughly after each.
Eating healthy means not just picking the right foods but also preparing them safely.
Date Published: 09/23/2015