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Prevent salmonella by properly handling food

News Release Distributed 09/16/14

BATON ROUGE, La. – Most cases of foodborne illness can be prevented if foods are carefully cooked and stored. Still, it is relatively easy to spread bacteria like salmonella that can cause food poisoning.

Salmonella is usually found in foods that are undercooked or raw or that have not been handled properly. It is often associated with poultry but can be found in many other foods, including eggs, seafood, raw produce and pet food, said LSU AgCenter food scientist Marlene Janes.

Salmonella is carried by many animals but generally does not make them sick, Janes said. Their fecal matter can spread the bacteria to foods humans eat, making proper cooking and cleaning important.

Prevention begins long before foods reach home kitchens, however.

“Salmonella control starts at the hatch of the chick,” said AgCenter poultry specialist Theresia Lavergne. “It’s found in feed, on equipment like feeders and waterers, and in the poultry’s bedding. It’s everywhere, but the industry does a lot of cleaning and sanitation to prevent it from spreading.”

State and federal authorities routinely inspect food processing plants to ensure levels of bacteria are safe. If not, the U.S. Department of Agriculture can issue recalls.

Janes said foods like poultry are sometimes treated with sanitizers while being processed, but they are not always effective.

Cooking chicken to 165 degrees will kill salmonella, Lavergne said.

Lavergne offers these additional tips:

—Don’t wash poultry before cooking. The water may splash and spread juices containing salmonella.

—Use separate utensils and cutting boards for raw meat and other ingredients to avoid cross-contamination. Wash hands and countertops frequently.

—Keep raw meat refrigerated, and refrigerate leftovers within two hours.

—If a recipe calls for raw eggs, use pasteurized eggs instead.

Preventing salmonella in fruits and vegetables is more difficult because they are often eaten raw. Janes said consumers should not purchase produce with cuts or bruises, which allow pathogens to enter.

Food Safety Modernization Act regulations being developed by the Food and Drug Administration could help with the raw produce problem. The act will require surface water on farms to be regularly tested for generic E. coli, which is an indicator of fecal matter and pathogens.

“If you reduce problems on the farm, that reduces problems down the line to consumers,” Janes said.

Olivia McClure

Last Updated: 9/17/2014 1:12:12 PM

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