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What you should know about salmonella

Salmonella poisoning is the most reported cause of foodborne illness. But by taking a few precautions you can keep salmonella bacteria from making your family sick.

Salmonella is one type of bacteria that really gets around.

One of the most reported causes of foodborne illness, salmonella can be found in just about every animal product you eat, including eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, pork and raw dairy products. And fruits, vegetables, seafood, sprouts and raw flour can also be contaminated.

Skip the sickness

Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts and waste of animals. You could get sick if you eat any animal product that has come into contact with salmonella and hasn't been properly cooked, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Contaminated fruits, vegetables, seafood, sprouts and raw flour can also sicken you if they haven't been thoroughly cooked.

The USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration offer the following tips to help you avoid salmonella poisoning:

Clean up. To keep salmonella from spreading among foods, wash anything that comes in contact with raw meat, poultry, eggs or seafood before you use it again. This includes knives, cutting boards, countertops and your hands. Wash them all with hot, soapy water.

Cook thoroughly. Even if a food contains salmonella, the bacteria won't survive if your food is thoroughly cooked. Cook ground beef to 160 degrees, steaks and roasts to at least 145 degrees, and poultry to 165 degrees. Cook eggs until the yolks are firm. Salmonella can get into eggs without the shell being broken. Cook seafood to 145 degrees, but heat leftover seafood to 165 degrees. Thoroughly cook sprouts and raw flour. The safest fruits and vegetables are cooked; if not cooked, they should be washed.

Store safely. Store uneaten or unused foods as soon as possible. Refrigerating or freezing won't kill salmonella, but it will help keep the bacteria from growing. Keep raw or cooked meat, poultry and seafood in either the refrigerator or freezer. Whole eggs shouldn't be frozen. Store them in the refrigerator.

When salmonella strikes

If you eat food contaminated with salmonella, you'll probably know six hours to six days later, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include stomach pain, diarrhea, chills, fever and headache.

Most people who have salmonella poisoning feel better four to seven days later. But the illness can be deadly for children, the elderly and people with other diseases, such as AIDS. These people should see a doctor right away if they have symptoms of salmonella poisoning.

Reviewed 5/13/2024

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