You should be scared of Salmonella
Salmonella is found quite commonly in nature and has been in the news quite a bit recently. How can this tiny microorganism, where thousands could fit on the head of a pin, make a large human being ill or even worse, could kill a person?
There are Salmonella ‘outbreaks’ regularly in Australia and these will become more prevalent as the weather warms up. The more recent cases include:
- The InterContinental in Adelaide — 71 ill and 21 hospitalised — linked to eggs
- Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre — 250 ill — linked to eggs
- Northern Territory Melon Farm — 86 ill across the states — linked to rockmelon
Illness includes all of the symptoms of gastroenteritis but can be fatal, especially if the infected person is an infant, elderly, pregnant or with a compromised immune system. If the dose received in the food is large enough, even a well person will become extremely ill and have trouble fighting off disease.
Microorganisms need the same things as we do to grow and survive. They need food, moisture, warmth and time to be able to multiply.
When foods or surfaces are contaminated with Salmonella it can easily be transferred by cross-contamination to ready-to-eat foods when food handlers are either not careful or not properly trained.
Salmonella spp. is also not spore forming and should therefore be killed in an adequate cooking process.
So how can we control this nasty?
We cannot control the ‘food’ or the ‘moisture’ Salmonella requires, but we can control it through temperature control — minimising the time food is allowed to stay in the growth range of temperatures — and through training in good food handling practices.
Salmonella spp. multiply happily between 5.2 and 46.2°C with the optimal temperature being 35 to 43°C. This is so close to our body temperature that when ingested they multiply happily in us if our body cannot adequately fight off the dose taken in and that is also why they are found in the intestinal tract and faeces of animals.
So, keep cold things cold until they are needed for cooking. Keep eggs in the fridge and once they have been in there for a few days, when cooking, fully cook them (scramble, omelettes, etc).
Good hygiene will reduce the risk of cross-contamination — wash hands after handling shell eggs, and businesses should have staff correctly trained in good food handling practices.
HLP Controls carries a range of ‘HACCP Approved’ thermometers that will help check on food temperatures and also has online training programs to help staff know what to do and how to do it to protect your business and your customers from one of these outbreaks.
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