Salmonella Infection — How to Avoid the Risk

Do you eat eggs? They are nutrient-rich, esp. vitamin D-rich food. Now you know eggs can also be a source of food poisoning, based on the fact that Salmonella outbreaks drove a nationwide egg recall recently. The New York Times reported that a half billion eggs have been recalled because of possible contamination with salmonella.

Today we focus on top 3 takeaways from this incident.

First, who is most vulnerable to salmonella infection?

Salmonella infections cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps, as well as fever. Usually symptoms of infection begin 12 to 72 hours after consuming contaminated foods/ beverages, and last 4 to 7 days. However, some cases can be serious and even fatal. In particular, the following populations are at high risk:

  • young children
  • elderly or frail individuals
  • people with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients and those undergoing chemotherapy

Second, what precautions can you take to eliminate the risk of infection?

Again, the food safety system has failed to eliminate salmonella threat. Therefore, you need to take some precautions to protect yourself and your family from food poisoning or bacteria infection. Based on recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and my own practice, I’ve compiled the following eggs/poultry safety Dos and Don’ts.

 

The Don’t list:

  1. Don’t eat raw or undercooked eggs.
  2. Don’t use raw eggs for salad dressing or homemade ice cream.
  3. Don’t handle food, esp. cooked food or ready-to-eat food before washing your hands.
  4. Don’t consume unpasteurized milk or any raw dairy products.
  5. Don’t eat restaurant dishes made with raw or undercooked eggs.
  6. Don’t prepare food or serve food/drink for others when you’re infected by salmonella.

The Do list:

  1. Do wash your hands thoroughly after handling poultry and anytime before preparing foods, especially cooked or ready-to-eat items.
  2. Do thoroughly wash the cutting board, involved counter surface, knives, utensils and containers/plates after handling uncooked poultry or foods.
  3. Do separate the cutting board or plates for raw food from those for cooked or uncooked ready-to-eat food to avoid cross-contamination; — a practice that many folks overlook.
  4. Do throw away any cracked or dirty eggs.
  5. Do keep eggs or egg-containing foods refrigerated at 45oF or lower.
  6. Do cook eggs until they are well-done (i.e., both yolks and whites are firm).
  7. Do judge or determine whether meat or poultry is cooked or safe to eat by a food thermometer when in doubt, not by food color or poking depth.
  8. Do make sure to cook any egg mixture (casseroles or cakes/pies) until the center of the mixture reaches a safe temperature level.

Third, is Salmonella infection linked to cancer risks?

The relationship between bacterial infection and cancer is rather complicated in the way that bacteria can either cause one type of cancer or protect from the other type of cancer or both. Here we only look at the link between salmonella bacteria and cancer – it’s like two sides of a coin.

There is a close association between mixed bacterial and salmonella infections with the carcinogenesis of cancer, particularly gallbladder cancer – a cancer with a poor prognosis. Even though one infection won’t get you cancer, repeated bacterial infections or chronic infections may lead to cancer development. Therefore, don’t overlook infection. As WHO advocated, preventing infection is one strategy to prevent cancer.

Reversely, the same bacterium, salmonella, has been found as a potential strategy to fight melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer. Specifically, research showed that injecting salmonella (of course, in a safe form) into cancerous mice and cancer cells from human melanoma increased an immune-killing response to tumor cells through elevating immune surveillance.

In short, food hygiene and food safety measures are always worthwhile for your overall health.

Photo credits:  by andar; by g-point

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