Did you hear about the recall of cereals made by the Malt-O-Meal company? At last count people in 14 states had been affected by two kinds of cereal – unsweetened puffed rice and unsweetened puffed wheat – that had the potential to contain salmonella.
And you thought cereal was one of the safest things you could eat! It should be – shouldn’t it? I mean, you can store it for what seems like forever. It’s not like raw meat or chicken – foods you might expect to potentially make you sick.
But unfortunately it seems that isn’t the case. So, what exactly is salmonella? How is it spread? And how does it end up in your breakfast? Keep reading for the answers to all those questions and more.
Salmonella is bacteria commonly found in food-producing livestock; chickens, cattle, pigs and even humans carry some form of salmonella bacteria in their digestive systems.
When the fecal matter of a processed animal comes in contact with a food item, there is a possibility of salmonella contamination. If the contaminated food item is not properly cleaned and prepared, the salmonella bacteria could be ingested into the human body. Cross-contamination of food occurs when the bacteria contacts a preparation surface which is not then properly sanitized. Foods coming in contact with that surface become contaminated with the bacteria. When salmonella bacteria are ingested into the human body, they cause a form of food poisoning.
Typically, salmonella bacteria are taken into the body with oral ingestion of contaminated food; however, the bacteria can also enter the body through cuts and abrasions on the skin during the preparation, handling or otherwise touching of any contaminated surface. In addition to food preparation and ingestion, the salmonella bacteria can be transferred during the handling of reptiles.
Finally, a valid reason not to touch a snake.
Salmonella is the most common form of food poisoning with over 40,000 cases reported annually and resulting in over 400 deaths. Salmonella infections occur within 12 hours to three days after contamination.
Symptoms of Infection
The signs that a Salmonella infection is present include:
• Abdominal Pain
• Muscle Pain
Dehydration is the major concern in cases of salmonella infections and the goal of any treatment is to replace lost fluids, specifically electrolytes. There are a number of electrolyte solutions available without a prescription, including sports drinks. In most cases, treatment to relieve the diarrhea should be avoided as this tends to prolong the illness; however, changing your diet during the episode may ease the diarrhea. A diet rich in binding foods like bananas, rice, applesauce and toast may help.
A salmonella infection typically has no long-term consequences, and the illness runs its course in 4 to 5 days. However if a person with a salmonella infection is unable to take fluids orally, there is concern for dehydration. IN that case, a person may need to receive additional fluids intravenously to replace the fluids lost to diarrhea.
You can help prevent the outbreak of salmonella by preparing food in a sanitary way. Keep all surfaces coming in contact with raw meat or poultry clean. In addition to cutting surfaces, keep all cutting utensils clean between uses. Cross-contamination is a major concern with salmonella bacteria. Fruits and vegetables are capable of becoming contaminated with the bacteria if they come in contact with any preparation surface which has not been cleaned. When handling food, keep your hands clean. Wash with hot, soapy water between preparations to remove the bacteria from your skin.
If you have reptiles in your home, always wash your hands after handling them, and be sure to monitor your children when they are around reptilian pets. Touching the pet with the hands, and then putting the hands to mouth may transfer the salmonella bacteria.
If you’ve ever suffered from a salmonella infection, you know it’s not fun. But by following the prevention tips above you can avoid being contaminated in the future. And for those instances you have no control over, such as the Malt-O-Meal cereal case, make sure you’re attuned to any notices or recalls issued by the FDA.