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Common Foodborne Pathogens: Salmonella



Authors as Published

Renee R. Boyer, Extension Specialist, Food Science and Technology, Virginia Tech

What is Salmonella?

Salmonella species are common, naturally occurring ba cteria found in the intestinal tracts of many animals and birds. When certain species of Salmonella are transferred from animals to humans – often through food contaminated with animal feces – humans experience symptoms of Salmonella poisoning.

Salmonella species are a leading cause of foodborne bacterial illnesses in humans. Human salmonellosis (the disease caused by Salmonella) is generally increasing worldwide. Poultry, beef and eggs are the predominant reservoirs of Salmonella species with other foods (fruits and vegetables) as potential vehicles for infection.

Symptoms of Salmonella Infection

The most c ommon symptoms of Salmonella infection are non-bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Symptoms generally oc cur 8 to 72 hours after ingestion of the pathogen and can last 3 to 5 days.

Who gets Salmonella Infection?

Foodborne infections from Salmonella are obtained through eating c ontaminated food or water. While children, the elderly and immunoc ompromised individuals are more susc eptible to infections, anyone at any age can get sick.

Proper Food Handling Techniques to Avoid Infection

Do not eat undercooked poultry and other meat products. Cook all poultry (even frozen), meats, and eggs thoroughly. Using a meat thermometer, make sure meat reaches the correct temperature. When not using, immediately place foods in refrigerator or freezer. Drink only pasteurized milk. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with cold water, especially those that will not be cooked. Make sure infected people, especially children, wash their hands carefully with soap after using the toilet to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.

Recent Salmonella Outbreaks in the U.S.

From August 2006 to May 2007 there were 628 cases of salmonellosis linked to peanut butter. Following investigation it was determined that the contamination occurred at the plant.

In April 2005, USDA linked cases of Salmonella infections in people to stuffed frozen chicken products sold in Minnesota and Michigan.

In 2004, several outbreaks of Salmonella were linked to consumption of uncooked roma tomatoes. These outbreaks resulted in over 500 cases of illness. It is believed that the implicated tomatoes were contaminated in either the field or packing house.

Commonly Associated Foods

  • Chicken and Turkey

  • Eggs

  • Raw meat

  • Unpasteurized Milk and juices

  • Fish

  • Chocolate

  • Tomatoes, melons and other fresh produce

Safe Food Handling Checklist‌

  • Wash hands thoroughly

  • Wash counter and utensils

  • Keep foods separated

  • Cook foods thoroughly
    Poultry = 165°F
    Ground beef = 160°F
    Steak = 145°F
    Fish = 145°F
    Eggs = cook until yolk and whites are firm

  • Refrigerate / leftovers Immediately after use

For More Information Contact:

Renee R. Boyer, Ph.D.

Extension Specialist

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is a partnership of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments. Its programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, sex (including pregnancy), gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, military status, or any other basis protected by law

Publication Date

June 17, 2020

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