Salmonella has been a hot topic on my Twitter feed this past month in response to the recall of contaminated cucumbers, raw cashews, Macadamia nuts and nut butters, pet food and shell eggs. This is all in the wake of the Chipotle salmonella outbreak in 2015 that was linked to Florida tomatoes.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Salmonella bacteria is responsible for roughly one million foodborne illnesses in the U.S. every year, with 19,000 hospitalizations and nearly 400 deaths.
People infected with salmonella typically develop symptoms of diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps starting 12-72 hours after exposure, and the illness can last 4 to 7 days. Although many people get better on their own, some require hospitalization for intravenous hydration, and in worst case scenarios, antibiotics if the bacteria spreads from the intestines to the blood stream.
You might be surprised to learn that Salmonella is perfectly legal in chicken houses in the U.S. and about one-quarter of raw chicken pieces are contaminated. Therefore, it’s no surprise that we regularly think of poultry as a leading cause of this foodborne illness.
The fact that the U.S. does not take measures to monitor and protect against salmonella in our chicken supply is disturbing and must be addressed.
However, meat and poultry products were responsible for just one third of salmonella outbreaks from 1998 through 2008. Granted, not all cases are reported so it’s impossible to verify this statistic.
The reality is that just about any food can harbor salmonella, and thanks to our broken food safety system, it’s our responsibility to make sure we don’t get sick.