Salmonella is a type of bacterium that causes one of the most common types of food poisoning in the United States. There are many different types of Salmonella, however the most common is “Salmonella Enteritidis.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 1.2 million cases of Salmonella each year, resulting in 450 deaths. But there may be more to the story. In addition, the annual incidence of Salmonella in the United States is a whooping 15.2 cases per 100,000 people. These numbers are so staggering because most people who fall ill with food poisoning never seek medical attention or report their illness. Without proper reporting, the governmental agencies cannot quickly and efficiently identify potential outbreaks – which could potentially save lives.
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Famous Outbreak: Former Peanut Corporation of America CEO, Stewart Parnell, was sentenced to 28 years in jail in 2015 for knowingly selling food contaminated with salmonella. Over 700 cases of salmonella poisoning were linked to the outbreak. The arrest of Parnell sent a much-needed message to corporate America that fraudulent activity including mislabeling and selling contaminated food items will not be tolerated.
Causes and Symptoms
The usual sources of outbreaks include raw meat, raw poultry, raw seafood, raw eggs, fruits and vegetables. However, outbreaks can stem from a variety of sources, including foods as innocuous as peanut butter!
The symptoms of Salmonella usually develop over 12 to 72 hours, after a person eats something contaminated with the bacteria. The symptoms — including diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever — tend to last four to seven days.
People who are sickened by Salmonella may experience:
- Abdominal Cramps
Most people recover from Salmonella poisoning without receiving treatment. That being said, it’s important to rest and properly hydrate if you’re suffering from Salmonella poisoning. In addition, antibiotics may be required if the salmonella infection spreads. Dehydration from diarrhea and vomiting can cause other symptoms like dizziness upon standing, dry mouth and throat, as well as a decrease in urination, which could lead to other severe health problems. Contact a medical professional if you cannot drink enough water or other hydrating (as in, non-caffeinated) liquids to avoid dehydration.
Salmonella can infect anyone. However, as with many things in life, the elderly, children and those with weakened immune systems are at the most risk of serious Salmonella poisoning. In fact, children under the age of five have the highest risk because, according to the CDC, they have the highest rate of infection.
Many potential cases of Salmonella can be avoided by cooking foods until they reach a safe temperature. Avoiding raw eggs and unpasteurized dairy products will also reduce risk, as well as washing and peeling produce. As always, proper hand washing further reduces risk and ensuring that raw meats are separated from raw ready-to-eat foods.
Wait — Aren’t There Federal Regulations to Help Protect Me?
Yes… and no. There are many groups involved in reducing the risk of Salmonella poisoning nationwide, including the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Both organizations have regulations. But until they both up their ante, let’s just say we recommend cooking your chicken to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.