In the last few months, there’s been a string of Salmonella outbreaks with the most recent coming from Conagra Brands, a company that makes Duncan Hines desserts. Conagra had to recall four types of their cake mix products when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found samples of salmonella in their “Classic White” brand. Conagra also made the decision to recall their other three cake varieties that had the expiration date set for March 2019.
In another incident back in October, The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Services reported that close to 57 People across 16 states had been infected with Salmonella after they had consumed contaminated beef that was produced by an Arizona company. And one month before this incident, there was another outbreak of Salmonella that came from an Alabama egg farm which had infected 135 people in 36 states.
These Cases Are Not Unusual
According to the CDC, Salmonella is responsible for close to 1.2 million illnesses every year. From these illnesses, roughly 23,000 people are hospitalized with 450 of these cases resulting in death. However, while these figures do seem shocking, WebMD stated that though Salmonella can be life-threatening, most people normally recover from the illness by themselves. It is only in severe cases where people land up in hospital or when the infection can lead to a fatal outcome.
Best Practices to Help Avoid Salmonella Infection
The Salmonella bacteria, colloquially known as food poisoning, is usually spread by consuming contaminated foods, with the most common being poultry, beef and eggs. However, it is also possible for the bacteria to contaminate fruits and vegetables. Once infected, people will start developing fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps within 6 to 48 hours. The CDC has laid out a simple way of helping people to avoid getting food poisoning, which is to “clean, separate, cook and chill.”
Foods that are more likely to carry Salmonella bacteria should always be separated from the rest. This practice should be implemented when they are refrigerated or when preparing the food. For example, use separate cutting boards to help prevent cross-contamination.
It is also highly recommended to wash your hands and the surfaces where the food will be prepared, and to rinse fruits and vegetables under running water.
Foods Must Be Cooked at the Correct Temperatures
According to The Spruce Eats (https://www.thespruceeats.com/tip-safe-cooking-temperatures-913410), the optimal temperature to kill Salmonella is by cooking your food at a temperature of 131 Fahrenheit for one hour, 140 Fahrenheit for half an hour, or by heating it to 167 Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Also, be careful of the “Danger Zone”. Foodsafety.gov states that this is a range of temperatures where foods are kept between 40 Fahrenheit and 140 Fahrenheit for two hours or more. This is considered the perfect temperatures for most bacteria as it will allow them to reproduce very easily.
A great way to ensure that you are cooking at the correct temperatures is by using a food thermometer as it will allow you to accurately measure the internal temperature of the meat you’re heating.
What happens if the Symptoms Become Worse?
If you have a fever that is higher than 100.4°F and it lasts for more than two days, you should get medical attention. In addition, if you experience severe symptoms such as blood in your bowel movements or vomit, or you have severe stomach pain and find it very difficult to eat or drink, then you should also seek medical attention immediately. Your doctor will tell you to drink lots of fluids while monitoring you carefully, which will then be followed with a treatment of antibiotics.
While the latest outbreaks of Salmonella infection can seem a bit scary, remember that there are ways to effectively prevented. So, take action by packing and preparing your food correctly, cooking at the correct temperatures and by implementing proper hygiene.