Protect yourself from salmonella infection
Salmonella is a bacterium that can make you ill with symptoms of diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that salmonella causes more than one million food-related infections each year.
When two or more people get sick from the same food, the event is called a foodborne disease outbreak. Since 2006, the U.S. has had at least one foodborne salmonella outbreak each year. In 2020, the CDC investigated salmonella outbreaks linked to peaches and onions in multiple states.
What causes salmonella poisoning?
Salmonella occur naturally in human or animal intestines. Salmonella infection results from ingesting foods contaminated with feces such as from:
- Butchering: Feces from an animal can contaminate meat while it is being cut.
- Water: Feces-contaminated water may be used to grow seafood, irrigate fields or wash produce.
- Eggs: Infected chickens can pass salmonella into the egg before the shell forms, or the shell can come in contact with feces in unsanitary environments.
- Improper handwashing: Contamination can occur when people touch foods after using the bathroom, changing a diaper or touching an infected animal such as a pet.
Stay safe and prevent salmonella food poisoning
Foods contaminated with salmonella bacteria tend to look and smell normal. Because the threat is often invisible, the CDC recommends this four-step approach to food safety:
Thoroughly clean your hands with soap and water before, during and after food preparation. Use a clean towel to dry your hands. Always wash your hands after you:
- Use the bathroom or change a diaper
- Touch or take out trash
- Touch animals or animal-related items
- Blow your nose, cough or sneeze
Also, wash kitchen utensils, countertops and cutting boards with soapy water. Use water or a produce wash to scrub fruits and vegetables, then dry with a clean paper towel.
You can protect yourself by not consuming raw meat, seafood or eggs. Follow these temperature guidelines to ensure your cooked foods are safe:
- 165 degrees: Chicken, turkey or duck (including ground products) and casseroles
- 160 degrees: Egg dishes and ground beef, veal, pork and lamb
- 145 degrees: Cuts of beef, veal, lamb, pork, ham and fish
Salmonella bacteria multiply quickly between 40 and 140 degrees. Don’t leave perishable foods out of the refrigerator for more than two hours (one hour if left out in warm weather). Thaw items in the refrigerator rather than on the counter.
Keep raw meats, eggs and seafood separated from other foods. Don’t use cutting boards or plates that touched raw items to prepare ready-to-eat foods.
Symptoms of salmonella poisoning
If you come in contact with salmonella bacteria, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach cramps
Salmonella poisoning symptoms can appear within 12 to 72 hours after you eat contaminated food. They last anywhere from four to seven days. In some people, it can take longer for symptoms to develop or disappear.
Most people won’t need treatment, but you should seek care if you experience:
- Intense diarrhea lasting more than three days
- Diarrhea plus a fever of 102 degrees or higher
- Vomiting that doesn’t subside
- Blood in your stool
- Signs of dehydration, including the inability to urinate, extreme dizziness or a dry mouth
If you’re worried about salmonella food poisoning or have lingering symptoms, contact your primary care provider. Learn more about salmonella infection.