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Update: Salmonella Outbreak – Three Key Ideas in the Aftermath

Posted in Salmonella on April 29, 2018

It has been eleven days since the CDC issued this statement concerning a Salmonella outbreak. The culprit: shell eggs. Twenty-three people are currently sick in 9 states.

There is a high likelihood more cases will be linked to the outbreak. With multiple hospitalizations, this outbreak has become very concerning. I am happy to report that at the time of this writing zero deaths have been reported, clean-up and containment methods are in place, and (hopefully) those with the contaminated product are disposing of it and are aware of the dangers. I would call this a lucky miss from the standpoint of no fatalities, but it is also important not to dismiss this and move on.

This outbreak is still ongoing. But with a recall, we hope it will be over soon.

So, where do we go from here?

I believe it is important to glean three important lessons from yet another outbreak:

  • Knowledge – What is Salmonella?
  • Safety – How can I prevent it?
  • Preparation – What is the best way to prepare eggs?

What is Salmonella Braenderup?

The simple answer: it’s a bacterium. Most bacteria are necessary in our lives. They help us digest food, fight certain diseases, even give us nutrients. Less than 1% of bacteria are dangerous to people, so when an outbreak occurs, it is important to listen and follow directions. That 1%, even though invisible to the naked eye, can cause the most damage.

For a more comprehensive understanding of the Salmonella bacteria and what it is capable of, I will refer you to here and here. There is a lot of detailed information out there if there is a burning need to understand microscopic biology.

When it comes to Salmonella poisoning, only a doctor can know for sure. There are a few things to watch out for if you feel you have come into contact with tainted food:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Cold and chills
  • Fever

Keeping up-to-date isn’t difficult. If outbreaks happen, there is a good chance you will hear about them. It’s also a great idea to follow Make Food Safe on Facebook. Keeping ahead of issues concerning our food is essential for a healthy life.

Food preparation is the key to staying healthy

This will seem obvious to many, but the fact remains: Salmonella can only make you sick if you ingest it. If food was always prepared with care and safety in mind, these outbreaks would all but disappear. The question is how? How do we maintain constant care in our Cooking Dojo without becoming a germaphobe?

I for one love eggs over-easy. Sorry if that turns anyone’s stomach, but it’s true. So, every time I have eggs (or other foods – don’t forget there are other foods that can contain Salmonella too) I am rolling the proverbial dice. There are guidelines – rules if you will – for preparing eggs in order to eat safely. The Incredible Egg website has a whole section on how to prepare not only eggs, but foods that use eggs in the recipe. And these guys have been around long enough to be considered rock stars when it comes to egg knowledge.

I consider myself somewhat of a food connoisseur, but a few of these tips surprised even me.

How many of these “suggestions” did you know about/use/surprised you?

Tips and Tricks of Egg Making and Eating

  • Scrambled Eggs, Omelets and Fritters

Cook until the eggs are thick and all liquid is hardened

  • Fried Eggs

Cook both sides, cover with a lid, cook until whites are set and yolks begin to thicken

  • Poached Eggs

Cook gently in simmering water, avoid precooking and reheating

  • Baked Goods, Hard Boiled Eggs

Salmonella is destroyed at high temperatures and while cooking hard-boiled eggs

  • French toast, Monte Cristo, crab/fish cakes, quiches, stratas, baked custards, casseroles

Cook or bake to 160 degrees, test with knife

  • Soft custards

Cook until thick enough to coat a spoon, thermometer should read 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Soft meringue       

Again, 160 degrees Fahrenheit, Refrigerate leftovers

Lots of information to digest (pun intended). If you read through it all, consider yourself a semi-professional egg preparer. You never know, it may save your life one day.

Here are the staggering facts: “The CDC estimates Salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths in the United States Emery year. Food is the source for about 1 million of these illnesses.” Let that sink in.

How do we keep ourselves safe from Salmonella?

The old adage “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” could apply here, even though I think my grandmother used to say it so I would clean my room. The point is to keep the preparation area clean. But that isn’t enough.

The first step upon hearing of an outbreak (of any kind to be honest) is to get informed, stop using that product, and wait for instructions.

In this case, we already have a long list of eggs being recalled. Look through the list to make sure you are not in possession of tainted food, then dispose of it correctly.

Remember: do not stop at just throwing out the tainted product. There also needs to be a thorough cleaning of anywhere the food touched, was stored, and utensils that may have come in contact with the food.

And ALWAYS was your hands.

In today’s world, you would think we would have a better handle on preparing food in a safer way. If you consider where we came from we have; but I think we can do better. This is where you and I come in. We need to be vigilant when we are preparing and handling food. Be it for ourselves, our families, or restaurants; in order to keep these microscopic menaces from intruding and possibly killing, we need to be aware of what the dangers are. Keep informed, practice safety, and prepare foods the right way.

At the end of the day it is the consumer who is a last line of defense. You have the power to protect yourself and your family from Salmonella.

By: Dwight Spencer, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)