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Volume III
October 14, 2011

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

Salmonella Facts and Prevention

By Patty Liston

We've all heard about the outbreak of salmonella in cantaloupe recently. I'm sure everyone who had this delicious fruit waiting in their refrigerator, hurriedly checked to see if theirs was one of the contaminated ones.

Salmonella is no joke. Each year an estimated 40,000 cases of salmonella are reported in the United States. This does not take into consideration those who get sick and assume it's the flu; never considering that they may be seriously ill. So how does one distinguish between "it must have been something I ate", and "better get me to the hospital"?

Common Symptoms Some of the common symptoms associated with salmonella poisoning include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. These can begin anywhere from 12 to 72 hours after the initial infection, and can make your life miserable for 4 to 7 days.

While quite uncomfortable, most people will recover without medical treatment. However, severe diarrhea, especially in children, those with compromised immune systems, and the elderly, should be seen by a doctor. Hospitalization will prevent dehydration and the spread of the infection from the intestines to the bloodstream. Once the bacterium is in the blood, other sites in the body can become infected, and if left untreated, may be fatal.

Should you contract salmonella, be sure to inform your public health department. Your information will help them identify the source of the outbreak, and may prevent others from suffering as you did.

An Ounce of Prevention...
According to the Mayo Clinic, salmonella is contagious and easily passed from one host body to another. Preparing food or providing care to infants, older adults, or those who are already ill is critical. Other precautions include:

Wash your hands
Washing your hands thoroughly can help prevent the transfer of salmonella bacteria to your mouth or to any food you're preparing. Wash your hands after you:
•   Use the toilet
•   Change a diaper
•   Handle raw meat or poultry
•   Clean up pet feces
•   Touch reptiles or birds

Keep things separate
To prevent cross-contamination:
•   Store raw meat, poultry and seafood away from other foods in your refrigerator
•   If possible, have two cutting boards in your kitchen - one for raw meat and the other for fruits and vegetables
•   Never place cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw meat
•   Wash utensils and counter-tops immediately after cutting uncooked food - preferable with a bleach solution. Don't use a sponge when cleaning up. They are breeding grounds for germs. Paper towels are best.

Avoid eating raw eggs
Cookie dough, homemade ice cream and eggnog all contain raw eggs. If you must consume raw eggs, make sure they've been pasteurized.

Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables

Send it back!
If you are served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs in a restaurant, at a picnic, or even at grandma's house, don't hesitate to send it back for further cooking.

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