Salmonella, a Food Safety Bad Guy

Sometimes it’s more fun to learn about the villains of food safety – Listeria, E-coli, insects, metal shards, Botulism (this one is really scary), and of course Salmonella which is everybody’s favorite. Haha, just kidding. But Salmonella is probably the ...

Salmonella a Food Safety Bad Guy

Sometimes it’s more fun to learn about the villains of food safety – Listeria, E-coli, insects, metal shards, Botulism (this one is really scary), and of course Salmonella which is everybody’s favorite. Haha, just kidding. But Salmonella is probably the most well-known food toxin that many people have had experience with.

 Unfortunately, I believe I have been victim to Salmonella’s “explosive” ways. But, even so, I still to this day love Thai food! But I digress, let’s continue to learn about (drum roll) Salmonella.

What is Salmonella?


You might think of Salmonella as a single germ, but it’s actually a whole family of bacteria that can make you seriously sick. There are over 2,500 subtypes, or serotypes, of Salmonella, with surprisingly only a handful causing the majority of illness in humans. These little guys are experts in stealth – they don’t stink, they don’t taste. But they pack a punch that can knock you flat on your back for days.

How was Salmonella First Discovered?


Back in 1885, Salmonella had its debut when Theobald Smith isolated the bacteria from the intestine of a pig. But it was British vet Sir Daniel Elmer Salmon who gave the bacteria its name – and the world a reason to be nervous about undercooked poultry.

What is Salmonella Poisoning?


Ah, Salmonella poisoning – the unwanted dinner guest that keeps on giving. Picture this: you’re enjoying a scrumptious meal, unaware that a microscopic party crasher is about to turn your digestive system into its own personal mosh pit. Symptoms range from the mildly inconvenient, like abdominal cramps and fever, to the downright dramatic, with severe dehydration and hospital visits. It’s like being on a roller coaster you never signed up for, and trust me, no one’s queuing for this ride. The real bummer? It can hit anyone, anywhere – from the comfort of your kitchen to your favorite five-star restaurant. And just when you thought it was safe to go back to the buffet… Well, consider yourself warned.

How many people get sick with Salmonella poisoning each year in the United States?


According to the CDC, around 1.35 million Salmonella infections occur each year. Among that number, the CDC estimates these infections cause approximately 420 deaths and 26,500 hospitalizations.

How is Salmonella Poisoning Treated?


The first line of defense against a Salmonella assault is hydrating like it’s going out of style. Due to the violent undermining of your digestive system, maintaining fluids is crucial. In more severe cases, antibiotics might be needed. But brace yourself – overuse of antibiotics can lead to some serious superbug issues down the line.

Famous Historical Examples of Salmonella Contamination


History is fraught with the sneaky appearances of Salmonella. Remember the Typhoid Mary scandal? She was the asymptomatic carrier of Salmonella Typhi and inadvertently spread the disease through her cooking, leading to the infection of multiple people. Then there’s the case of the cookie dough drama, reminding us all not to sneak a bite before baking.

And who could forget the Great American Egg Recall of 2010? A whopping half-billion eggs were ditched due to fears of Salmonella Enteritidis. No omelets for a while, folks!

Oh, and we can’t leave out the infamous Peanut Corporation of America fiasco of 2008-2009. Trust me, it’s nutty. This scandal had us all giving the side-eye to peanut butter jars. The PCA was found guilty of shipping out products tainted with Salmonella, leading to an outbreak that sickened hundreds across the USA and tragically resulted in deaths. The kicker? They knew about the contamination and shipped the products anyway. Pass the almond butter, please!

How do you prevent Salmonella from contaminating food?


This is where a good food safety plan makes all the difference. A food safety plan that includes any or all of these systems and certifications (you MUST continue to follow the hazard controls for these to work, however) will help prevent Salmonella contamination and growth. HACCP, SQF, GMP, CGMP, GFSI, BRC, or a Costco audit have steps in place to prevent Salmonella contamination. 

  • Keep surfaces, hands, and utensils clean.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, seafood, produce, eggs (keep in the carton) separate from other foods in your fridge and grocery cart.
  • Keeps foods cold. Food should not be in 90℉ heat for more than 1 hour before refrigerating or freezing. Cold does not kill Salmonella but it can inhibit the growth of the Salmonella bacteria.

How can Salmonella bacteria be killed?


  • Cooking to a temperature of at least 145℉ for beef, pork, lamb, veal, and ham can kill Salmonella. Ground versions of these meats must be cooked to 160℉.
  • Egg dishes must be cooked to a temperature of 160℉.
  • Poultry and ground poultry must be cooked to a temperature of 165℉.
  • Fish (with fins) must be cooked until the flesh is opaque or the temperature reaches 145℉.
  • Casseroles and microwaved food should also be cooked to the temperature of 165℉.

How do you test for Salmonella Contamination?

When it comes to playing detective with Salmonella, environmental monitoring is your Sherlock Holmes’ magnifying glass. It’s all about swabbing the scene of the crime—think surfaces, equipment, and even the air, basically anywhere these sneaky bacteria might be throwing a secret rave without an invite. You swab, then send these samples to a laboratory where smart folks in lab coats put them through a microbial obstacle course. If Salmonella is present, it’ll grow, throwing a party under the microscope. This kind of monitoring is like the gossip magazine of the food safety world; it tells you all about the unseen drama happening right under your nose. Just remember, finding Salmonella isn’t about playing the blame game, it’s about stopping the spread and keeping those dinner plates safe.

How does the FDA Handle Recalls Associated with Salmonella?


Recalls are the FDA’s version of taking your toys away. When Salmonella rears its ugly head, the FDA pounces with recalls to protect the public. It’s a well-choreographed, zero-fault dance that involves communication, investigation, and enough paperwork to give a spreadsheet enthusiast heart palpitations.

Salmonella isn’t just a lunchtime legend – it’s a real threat that puts millions at risk each year. By understanding its habits and haunts, we can continue the battle for uncontaminated food. Remember to cook with care, eat with caution, and maybe give your cooking a theme song – any ’80s disco track should do the trick.

Salmonella’s not invincible, and with a bit of knowledge and a lot of elbow grease, we’ll maintain our kitchens as havens of health instead of hotspots for havoc. Stay informed, stay safe, and who knows – maybe you’ll be the one to finally give Salmonella the slip.


Salmonella is most commonly associated with raw meats, poultry, eggs, and seafood, but it can also be found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and processed foods if they are contaminated during processing or handling.
Symptoms of Salmonella poisoning can appear anywhere from 6 hours to 6 days after consuming contaminated food, with most people experiencing symptoms within 12 to 72 hours.
In the event of suspected or confirmed Salmonella contamination, a business owner should immediately halt production and distribution, initiate a product recall, investigate the contamination source, apply corrective measures, and communicate openly with customers, suppliers, and health authorities.

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