It seems like every week now, the Food and Drug Administration issues a new alert about salmonella contamination in the food supply. Recent outbreaks of salmonella illness have been linked to contaminated fruit and vegetables, eggs, raw chicken, cooked shrimp, and ground turkey.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that salmonella causes 1.2 million foodborne illnesses and 450 deaths annually in the U.S.
But where does it come from?
Salmonella bacteria live in the intestines of people and animals, and spread to agricultural products through contaminated water, or they're dispersed directly in food production/packaging facilities.
Kids younger than 5, adults over age 65, and anyone with a weakened immune system are most vulnerable to severe consequences from the diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps that the bacteria can trigger.
Although cooking kills salmonella, just bringing contaminated products into your kitchen risks spreading the infectious bacteria to other foods and surfaces and on to pets and people. Your best protection comes from:
• Storing raw meat, poultry, and seafood away from other foods.
• Never rinsing raw poultry before cooking.
• Using separate cutting boards for raw meat and produce.
• Never placing cooked food on an unwashed plate that's had raw meat on it.
• Never eating unpasteurized raw eggs or unbaked cookie dough.
• Washing your hands frequently, especially after changing a diaper, cleaning up pet feces, or handling raw animal products.
• Cooking meats/poultry to recommended temperatures. Check out www.FoodSafety.gov; search for "safe minimum cooking temperatures."