We all love chicken. Unfortunately, chicken (poultry) is still the leading source of Salmonella. Although, Salmonella can be found in many foods, i.e. fruits, vegetables, processed foods, this bacteria is normally found in the intestines of poultry and human beings … so in overly real terms, if we get sick from Salmonella, we are eating “poop.”
Chicken is the most popular meat bought here in the United States with consumers eating an average of 84 pounds of chicken a year. Human Avoidance Factor: the best thing we can do is WASH OUR HANDS! Many times we are infected and might not even realize it. Wash your hands before and after handling poultry; I would say please, but no … this is a must do; it is our unfailing responsibility to our customers.
Salmonella serotype Enteridis infection is the most commonly contracted form of Salmonella and is predominately found on eggs and poultry. The symptoms as with most foodborne illness include: fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Symptoms usually start 12-72 hours after ingestion and can last usually 4-7 days. According to the Center of Disease Control overview in 2011, Salmonella is estimated to cause more than 1.2 million illnesses and 23,000 hospitalizations resulting in about 450 deaths each year. The CDC reports that for every confirmed case of Salmonella, there 30 more cases not confirmed.
How does Salmonella get onto eggs and poultry? It is transmitted through the feces of infected birds. The industrial method of raising poultry requires many birds in a small space. If you’ve ever wondered how our plants get contaminated with salmonella, it’s through the process of irrigating a field with tainted animal water … thus contaminating the plants. Contamination can also occur in the plants with contaminated equipment, i.e. knives, cutting boards, workers’ hands, etc.
A lot of my students are proud to tell me they rinse chicken before they cook it. They think this makes the chicken safer to eat. It doesn’t! In fact, one has to be extra careful – if you want to rinse your poultry before cooking as in all actuality, you are increasing the risk of cross contamination in your kitchen with the splash factor. Heat is what kills the bacteria, Salmonella – so it is very important that poultry be cooked to the correct internal temperature of 165°F. Thermometers should be used to gauge the cooking temperature is reached. It is logical, that we follow all safe food practices to keep us safe from Salmonella, i.e. keep poultry cold, out of the Temperature Danger Zone (TDZ = 41°F -135°F), don’t cross contaminate, cook to proper temperature, wash our hands etc.
These are all things we can do to keep ourselves safe from Salmonella – whether in a professional or home kitchen, but to think outside the box, “What could the industry do to eradicate Salmonella?” Initially, readdress industry raising of poultry here in the USA. Let’s give our poultry a salmonella vaccine. The UK has been using one and it has brought down the incidence of Salmonella poisoning remarkably. Let’s stop giving our poultry antibiotics, so we don’t get antibiotic resistant strains of Salmonella. Let’s make sure the slaughter houses are doing a better job on cleaning and sanitizing their facilities to avoid cross contamination.
Let’s develop a Salmonella vaccine for humans and use it. Let’s really look into high pressure pasteurization as an option to eradicate Salmonella on fresh poultry before it is sold. High Pressure Pasteurization is a “a cold pasteurization technique which consists of subjecting food, previously sealed in flexible and water-resistant packaging, to a high level of hydrostatic pressure (pressure transmitted by water) up to 600 MPa / 87,000 psi for a few seconds to a few minutes. It is the same effect as subjecting the food to an ocean depth of 60 Km deep – if an ocean this deep existed. Since 2000, High Pressure Processing has been successfully implemented in all type of food industries worldwide. High Pressure Processing is a natural, environmentally friendly process that respects the ingredient and helps maintain the fresh food characteristics like flavour and nutrients. It is a real alternative to traditional thermal and chemical treatments.