Summer Food Safety and Salmonella

Each year, 1 in 6 people in the United States gets sick from eating contaminated food. Each of those illnesses represents something that went wrong somewhere along the way from a farm to table. Salmonella is the most common illness cause by food in the United Sates. The CDC estimates 1.2 million people get sick and around 450 die each year from salmonella alone. Lincoln County had 8 confirmed cases of salmonella in 2016.

Most people infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps between 12 and 72 hours after infection. It will usually last 4 to 7 days, and most individuals recover without treatment. In some cases, diarrhea may be so severe that the patient will end up in the hospital.

Children are at the highest risk for Salmonella infection.  Children under the age of 5 have higher rates of this infection than any other age group. Young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are the most likely to become ill.

Salmonella gets into food through the poop of animals, such as cows, birds, and mice. You can find it in foods such as: contaminated eggs, poultry, meat, unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables (alfalfa sprouts, melons), spices, and nuts. It can even travel to our food by handling animals particularly, reptiles (snakes, turtles, and lizards), amphibians (frogs), birds (baby chicks) and pet food and treats.

Salmonella infections are more common in the summer than winter. You cannot smell or see Salmonella in or on food. That is why it is important to do everything that you can to be food safe at home by following the tried-and-true methods of CLEAN, SEPARATE, COOK, and CHILL.

One way to reduce the spread according to September Murphy, Environmental Health Technician at Lincoln County Health Department is “not wash meat, poultry, and eggs! This can actually spread Salmonella to other foods.  Instead cook meat, poultry, and eggs thoroughly to their respectively safe temperatures”. You can visit https://datcp.wi.gov/Documents/PHFHoldingFactSheet.pdf for proper cooking temperatures. Also, remember to wash your hands, utensils, cutting boards, and other surfaces before and after handling meat and poultry.  Thoroughly wash fresh fruits and vegetables.  Assume that raw chicken and other meat have salmonella and do not allow them to contaminate surfaces and other foods, such as produce.

You can also go online and see how your favorite restaurant is keeping food safe preventing foodborne illness by viewing their inspection report. Results are posted to the website one week after an inspection. To view the reports go to lincolncountyhealthdepartment.com and click on “Lincoln County Inspection Reports” on the right side of the page to view all restaurants in Lincoln County.

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