Salmonella — a bacteria found in the intestines of people and animals — can cause fever, diarrhea and pure misery. Fortunately, the spread of salmonella is preventable. Identify the major salmonella carriers and do whatever it takes to stop the spread.
Prevent salmonella contamination
In your kitchen, a major source of salmonella is food of animal origin, such as poultry, meat, eggs and dairy products. The bacteria can also be transmitted by unwashed produce items and seafood from contaminated water.
Always make sure foods are cooked thoroughly, and avoid dangerous raw foods: uncooked eggs (homemade cookie dough, Caesar salad dressing), unpasteurized milk and dairy products and undercooked meats (especially ground beef).
Proper refrigeration is also important. The Texas Agricultural Extension Service recommends refrigerating foods at temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Be wary of cross-contamination of foods. Keep uncooked meats separate from cooked food, ready-to-eat food and produce.
Improper hand washing
Salmonella can be transferred to any food — even one that's been properly cooked — by unwashed hands. Anyone who prepares food must practice good hygiene, such as thoroughly washing hands after going to the bathroom or handling raw foods.
Wash hands before handling food and between handling different foods. A quick rinse won't suffice: use hot water and soap to kill the bacteria.
Unclean kitchen surfaces
Beyond keeping hands clean, it is imperative that you wash kitchen work surfaces, bowls and utensils immediately after they’ve been in contact with raw meat, poultry, eggs or other potentially contaminated foods.
Use hot soapy water to remove bacteria from counters, refrigerator doors, sinks and faucets. Run dishes and utensils through a hot-water dishwasher cycle or wash in hot soapy water.
Avoid using sponges. A 2011 study by NSF International, a non-profit consumer safety organization, revealed that the kitchen sponge had a higher concentration of germs than any other household item or surface. Opt for disposable wipes, paper towels or cloth dishrags that can be washed in hot water.
Our feathered friends present a particular problem: the salmonella carried in the intestines of birds, chicks and ducklings contaminates the entire surface of the animals’ bodies and their surrounding environment as well. Children can be exposed to salmonella just by holding or petting the animals.
Reptiles are likely to have salmonella, which can contaminate their skin. After handling a reptile, you should immediately and thoroughly wash their hands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends removing all reptiles (even turtles) from homes with infants.
Even your favorite furry friends pose a threat. Salmonella may be present in the feces of cats, dogs, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice and other pets. Always wash hands after contact with any animal feces.
Your pet’s “stuff” can cause problems, too. Wash after handling its water bowl, food dish, toys or anything else that comes in contact with body, mouth or feces of your pet.
More helpful kitchen tips