Food Safety, Preparation and Storage Tips
Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, the University of Arizona

Salmonella

Chicken, turkey, pork, beef, eggs, and other meat and poultry products are important sources of protein, iron and other nutrients. However, these foods, like all raw animal foods may carry Salmonella and other bacteria. The good news is that these bacteria don't have to cause illness. Routine food safety practices can destroy salmonella and other bacteria, and prevent outbreaks of the illnesses they cause.

There are about 2,000 different strains of Salmonella bacteria. But, only about 10 of them cause problems for humans. They are found in the intestinal tracts and waste of livestock, poultry, household animals, birds, and other mammals. Despite strict sanitation practices in food processing plants, it is virtually impossible to guarantee that raw meat or poultry will be "salmonella free".

Illness occurs if enough live Salmonella bacteria enter our bodies through food. The numbers of salmonella on a raw food may be fairly low and do not increase if the food is properly refrigerated. But careless food handling practices can give bacteria a chance to multiply.

For example, if a knife used to cut up raw poultry is then used to cut up lettuce for salad without first being washed, the lettuce can be contaminated by any bacteria that have been on the meat. Since the lettuce is not cooked before eating, the person who eats the lettuce will also eat the bacteria and get sick. Once bacteria are in the small intestine, they can multiply, and cause illness. You or your family can have diarrhea, upset stomach, chills, fever or headache. And, symptoms may last for 3 to 5 days.

Salmonella infections can be life-threatening for the very old or very young or for persons already weakened by serious diseases. Many persons with the illness think they have the flu and never see a doctor.

Prevent Salmonella infections in your home or in group meals by following these guidelines:

  • Cook meats, poultry and eggs thoroughly to destroy the bacteria that may be present. Be sure the endpoint internal temperature of beef or pork is at least 160° F and that poultry is cooked to 185°. Eggs should be completely cooked, not served with runny whites or yolks.
  • Wash your hands, knives, cutting boards and other utensils that have touched raw meat or poultry before working with other foods. Kitchen utensils can sanitized with a solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach in a gallon of water to assure that other foods will not be contaminated. And, sanitize your dishcloth.
  • Don't use wooden cutting boards for raw meats or poultry. They cannot be thoroughly cleaned. Use acrylic cutting boards for these foods.
  • Keep raw meat or poultry refrigerated before cooking, and stored in a way that prevents contact with cooked meats or other foods.
  • Don't interrupt cooking time of meats or poultry. Be sure that the endpoint temperatures are reached in one continuous period of time.
  • Thaw frozen meats or poultry in the refrigerator, or in waterproof wrapping in a sink of cold water, or use your microwave. Keep meats refrigerated or cook them immediately after thawing.
  • Refrigerate left-over cooked foods immediately. Don't hold food for late-comers in a barely warm oven. Holding temperatures should be at least 150° F, and the holding time should be no longer than 2 hours. Refrigerate your food after that time.

Resources:

  • University of Minnesota script, “Salmonella, Preventing Outbreaks.”
  • North Central Regional Extension Publication, #447, Microorganisms & Foods.
  • Salmonella.http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~mow/chap1.html
  • FDA/CFSAN. 1998. Salmonella spp. In: Bad Bug Book - Food-borne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins Handbook.

Material written by Mary Abgrall and Scottie Misner, June 1998.
Part of Food Safety Tips, College of Agriculture, The University of Arizona
Document located at http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/health/foodsafety/az1094.html
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