It’s likely that we’ve all gambled with Salmonella at one point or another, whether through eating raw cookie dough, a spoonful of brownie batter, or perhaps a bite of an undercooked cheeseburger. No big deal, right? Well, not exactly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Salmonella bacteria cause about 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths every year in the United States. At the time of writing this article, there are multiple food recalls worldwide related to Salmonella, including recalls on items such as all-purpose flour, fruit, onions, chocolate candies, and powdered infant formula.
What Causes Salmonella Infections?
Salmonella are a type of bacteria that live in the digestive tract of people and other animals. The bacteria can pass out of the intestines into waste. For most people, Salmonella infections are usually only a brief illness with stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, and diarrhea that lasts four to seven days. However, some people can experience more severe symptoms and may require hospitalization.
People can get infected with Salmonella bacteria by:
- Holding, kissing, or petting animals that are likely to carry Salmonella (such as turtles, snakes, lizards, chicks, and baby birds). People can become infected if they don’t wash their hands and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth after handling these animals or touching contaminated surfaces (such as enclosures, cages, food dishes, etc.).
- Eating foods contaminated with human or animal feces. In processing plants and restaurants, foods often become contaminated if food workers don’t wash their hands before handling food.
- Eating undercooked foods contaminated with animal feces.
- Eating food prepared on surfaces that were in contact with raw meat or raw eggs, such as a countertop, cutting board, or mixing bowl.
Consult your doctor if you think you may have a Salmonella infection.
Related: What is an E. coli Infection?
Infection Prevention is Vital
Prevention is critical to avoid Salmonella infections and E. coli, and other foodborne illnesses. Here are a few tips to help prevent Salmonella infections:
Wash Your Produce
Unwashed raw vegetables and fruit can carry Salmonella. Always wash your fresh vegetables and fruit thoroughly before eating. For thicker-skinned produce, scrub with a vegetable brush to remove dirt and microbes. For produce that needs a more delicate touch, like leafy greens, broccoli, and berries, soak them in cool water for a few minutes before rinsing and drying with paper towels or a salad spinner.
Keep Your Fridge Healthy
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends keeping your refrigerator temperature at or below 40°F and your freezer temperature at or below 0°F. However, the ideal refrigerator temperature is lower. Aim to stay between 35° and 38°F (or 1.7 to 3.3°C). This temperature range is as close as you can get to freezing without being so cold that your food will freeze. It's also as close as the refrigerator temperature should get to the 40°F threshold when bacteria begin multiplying rapidly.
In the event of a food recall, due to the presence of pathogens, it’s essential to clean and sanitize your refrigerator and anywhere else the contaminated products may have touched to avoid cross-contamination. We’ve discussed this topic in detail here: How to Clean and Sanitize Your Refrigerator After A Food Recall.
Cook Meat to Safe Temperatures
Always check the recommended safe temperature for the foods you’re preparing. For example:
- All poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F.
- All ground meats (poultry, pork, lamb, beef) should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F.
- Roasts should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F.
Don’t Spread Germs Around
According to a study by the Soap and Detergent Association (via Infection Control Today), 28% of Americans who use either cleaning, disinfecting, or antibacterial wipes do so because of their portability, and another 20% use them because of the "ease of disposal."
While you may be using disinfectant wipes with the best intentions, those quick 10-second swishes on surfaces that most people do while using wipes could be doing more harm than good. In addition to following instructions for proper dwell time, William Schaffner, Department Chair of Preventative Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, further recommends having a "use it and lose it" philosophy when using disinfectant wipes. Before moving on to a new surface, always throw the wipe away and reach for a new one, or else you risk spreading germs around from one surface to the next.
In most cases, using a spray disinfectant cleaner, such as Vital Oxide, is preferable. A ready-to-use spray disinfectant allows you to disinfect hard-to-reach areas that wipes can’t reach. It also ensures that the surface remains wet for the proper contact time so that pathogens are eliminated.
Sanitize Food-Prep Surfaces
To avoid Salmonella and other foodborne illnesses, proper cleaning and sanitizing of areas where food is prepared is a must. When cleaning and sanitizing food-contact surfaces, always use a food-safe solution to avoid chemical contamination. Vital Oxide is designated by NSF International as a “no-rinse required” food-contact surface sanitizer. This versatile multi-purpose solution can be used full-strength or diluted for multiple applications. Vital Oxide kills 99.9% of bacteria, including infectious microbes like Listeria, E. coli, and Salmonella enterica, in less than 60 seconds, without leaving a harmful chemical residue.
Vital Oxide can be used on food-contact surfaces like cutting boards, prep tables, dishes, beverage and ice equipment, and more to eliminate Salmonella bacteria.At Vital Oxide, we’re proud to offer a revolutionary product that’s powerful enough to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria without harsh chemicals or alarming safety ratings. If you have any questions, please Contact Us or Send Us a Message on Facebook. We’re here to help.