Salmonella is one of the most common bacterial causative agents of intestinal diseases across the world. High-risk foods such as raw meat or products made from eggs can transfer salmonella bacteria into our system when eaten raw or undercooked. Sometimes salmonella can also be found in plant-based food, and when they are not subject to heat treatment, they can also cultivate the bacteria in our gut.
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that causes food-related illnesses. You can’t smell, taste, or see it, but it is present in many different types of uncooked or raw food items. The infection caused by these bacteria is officially called salmonellosis. Common symptoms include upset stomach, fever, diarrhoea, pain, and cramping in the gut region. If left untreated, these symptoms may last up to 8 days.
What Causes Salmonella?
Heat helps destroy this disease-causing bacteria. However, if the contaminated food items are consumed in their raw form, the bacteria can spread from the food into our stomachs. In most cases, the acids present in our stomach kill the bacteria, but when the high-fat content of the food provides salmonella with adequate protection against acids in the human stomach, the bacteria reach the intestine alive and proceed to cause an infection.
Commonly Infected Food Items
- Raw meat, poultry and seafood: Faeces may get onto raw meat and poultry during the butchering process. Seafood may be contaminated if harvested from contaminated water.
- Raw or undercooked eggs. While an egg’s shell may seem to be a perfect barrier to contamination, some infected chickens produce eggs that contain salmonella before the shell is even formed. Raw eggs are used in homemade versions of foods such as mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce.
- Unpasteurised dairy products. Unpasteurised milk and milk products — sometimes called raw milk — may be contaminated with salmonella. The pasteurisation process kills harmful bacteria, including salmonella.
- Fruits and vegetables. Some fresh produce, particularly imported varieties, may be irrigated in the field or washed during processing with water contaminated with salmonella. Contamination can also occur in the kitchen when juices from raw meat and poultry come into contact with uncooked foods, such as salads.
How to Detect Salmonella
Identifying the critical points in the production chain is essential for pathogen control and traceability. Traceability requires a thorough and structured sampling of large surfaces with suitable swab material, sampling of hard-to-reach places, and the dismantling of the equipment in this process is also a must. The approach must go further than just surface sampling. It starts with the inspection of the raw materials coming in, to frequent checks of the end products.
Whole genome sequencing can be used to fully reveal the DNA or passport of each bacterium. This is done routinely for every strain isolated from sick people. This way, the outbreak and the people who are infected with the same strain can be mapped out. Within a factory genome, sequencing can equally be used to unravel the cause of contamination by this new analysis technique. When Salmonella strains are isolated, this technique allows you to verify whether it is a house strain or rather a temporary passer-by induced by contaminated raw material. This way, the source of contamination can be identified, and targeted action taken.
Implications for Health
As mentioned above, the most common symptoms include fever, diarrhoea, and cramps. Even though other symptoms may only last a few weeks, diarrhoea lasts up to 10 days, and sometimes it takes several months before bowels return to usual stool habits. Symptoms usually begin six hours to six days after infection and last four to eight days. However, some people do not develop symptoms for several weeks after infection, and others experience symptoms for several weeks. Often people who get salmonella infection think they have the stomach flu.
Salmonella strains sometimes cause infection in urine, blood, bones, joints, or the nervous system (spinal fluid and brain) and can cause severe disease. A few varieties of salmonella bacteria result in typhoid fever, a sometimes deadly disease that is more common in developing countries. Slightly less severe symptoms also include nausea, vomiting, headache, and occasionally blood in stool.
1. Hygienic Design is a Must
Hygienic design is much more than bright and shiny stainless steel installations in a facility. Basically, it’s the application of design techniques that allow for all assets to be cleaned effectively and efficiently in order to minimise the risk of any kind of hazards.
To ensure rapid, effective cleaning in food production and to minimise contamination with microorganisms, hygienic design is a must not only for the equipment used but also for buildings and facilities. This applies equally to food product businesses, commercial kitchens, food service production areas or kitchen hospitals. Also, in these sectors, there is a need for a better understanding of what good hygienic design looks like. With training and building awareness, it’s crucial to demonstrate how critically important hygienic design is for food safety.
2. A Food Safety Mindset
Improving food safety and managing the risks that come with the production of food should be top of mind for all food producers. Yet this can only be done when a true food safety culture is embedded in the organisation and where food safety is not seen as a cost but as the cornerstone of a company.
Here are the steps you can take to bring a food-safety mindset into your kitchen:
- Clean the kitchen countertops and utensils every time they come in contact with the commonly infected food products mentioned above
- Thoroughly wash your hands after handling any of the commonly infected food products mentioned above. Even if you don’t come into contact with any of the items mentioned, you should wash your hands every time before you touch utensils, napkins, or anything else you serve to customers to eliminate the risks of salmonella.
- Keep raw food items separate from cooked food items at all times. Even indirect contact can cause salmonella to contaminate the cooked food.
- Wash vegetables and fruits before cooking or serving. However, you must avoid washing raw meat, poultry, and seafood before cooking. As for green leafy vegetables, soak them in water for about 5 minutes before you start cooking.
- Always use a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature at which food products like meat or poultry are being cooked so that you wouldn’t have to rely on guesswork. Cook meat to an internal temperature of 74°C or higher and all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 71°C.
- Set your refrigerators to 4°C or below and disinfect your refrigerators once or twice a week to prevent the spread of bacteria.
- Train and certify all food service managers and supervisors in food safety.
Antimicrobial Fruits and Vegetables Cleaner
OPAL is a chlorinated antimicrobial sanitiser, excellent for sanitising raw fruits and vegetables during the washing or peeling process. It reduces 99.9% of pathogenic microorganisms (E-coli, Salmonella, Lister, etc.), insects and other dirt from fruits and vegetables. OPAL is also used as a cleaner & sanitiser for food contact surfaces and equipment in the Food Processing Industries.
Food Surfaces Cleaner and Sanitizer
RINCON is a foaming sanitizing detergent formulated for effectively cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in food areas. RINCON is formulated with a blend of detergents, sequestrants and quaternary ammonium compounds specially selected to be effective against a wide range of microorganisms for maximum hygiene.
Salmonella is a dangerous disease, and if customers associate the food served at your establishment with salmonella, it will negatively impact your reputation in the industry. This is why Improving food safety and managing the risks that come with the production of food should be top of mind for all food producers. Yet this can only be done when a true food safety culture is embedded in the organisation and where food safety is not seen as a cost but as the cornerstone of a company. So, make sure you take note of the guidelines mentioned above and use proper products to implement the guidelines in your establishment.