Salmonella – we all know it’s bad for us but why? What is it? Where does it come from? Why
should we care? Does my company have a plan in place if something tests positive?
With all the news lately about one recall after another, it is easy to be tormented with endless
questions. I am here to tell you that with a food safety plan and proper testing, Salmonella is a threat that
you can handle.
Background of Salmonella
Salmonella is one of the most difficult foodborne pathogens to eliminate. Not correctly
dealing with the pathogen is harmful to your company’s reputation and pocketbook.
According to an annual study done by Food Safety News, foodborne illness in the United
States has an annual estimated cost of $77.7 to $152 billion, not including reduced customer
confidence, recall losses, litigation or the cost from public health agencies who respond to the
Salmonella itself is a motile, facultative anaerobe bacterium which causes salmonellosis. That
means that Salmonella is a fast-moving bacterium, that can survive with or without oxygen,
and causes Salmonellosis (Salmonella infection). Salmonellosis is the way to describe being
symptomatically infected by Salmonella.
Salmonella was first isolated in 1885 by an assistant to American scientist, Dr. Daniel Salmon.
Since then, scientists have discovered many different variations (~2,500 serotypes) of
Salmonella which can cause infection. The bacteria cause illness for 4 to 7 days. In some cases,
Salmonella can escape from the intestines and enter the bloodstream. Once in the
bloodstream, it infects other body sites causing severe infections. Children under the age of
five, elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to have severe
infections. Research has shown that Salmonella infections are more likely to occur during the
summer months. Therefore extra care must be taken from May thru August to prevent
outbreaks in your facility.
Illustration from Food Safety News
By the Numbers
In 2018 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated:
- 1,027,567 cases of Salmonella
- 19,336 resulted in hospitalizations
- 378 of cases resulted in death
- Roughly 13% of all foodborne deaths come from Salmonella
How Do You Become Infected?
Salmonella is in raw and undercooked eggs, poultry, meat, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts,
water, and unpasteurized dairy products. To grow, Salmonella colonizes in the intestines of
animals and spreads through feces. Humans can also spread the pathogen. Not washing
hands after a bowel movement followed by direct contact with another person, touching a
surface, or preparing food leads to transmission. If you think not washing your hands is the
only cause, you thought wrong. Water infected with the bacteria can provide an optimum
environment for growth. When contaminated water spreads onto irrigate crops, the final
product delivers the bacteria into the consumers home.
Why Test for Salmonella?
- Public health impact (deaths, hospitalizations)
- Contamination in water (Adulteration of the food supply chain)
- Company Reputation (Loss of consumer confidence)
- Recalls, FDA Investigations (Time and lost money, black mark on company name)
- Economic loss (Bankruptcy, cost of finding recalled product)
- Lawsuits, prison sentences (Selling food known/unknown to be positive
As you can see, Salmonella has a genuine impact on the longevity of a business.
2018 Salmonella Outbreaks and Cost:
- Pre-Cut Melons (July 2018)
– 77 cases, 9 states, 36 hospitalizations
– $2.9 million loss
– 1,532 pounds of product
- Breakfast Cereal (September 2018 not completed)
– 135 cases, 36 states, 34 hospitalizations
– 2.4% drop in company sales
– Unknown amount needed to recall
– Breakfast Cereal Outbreak Map
- Cake Mixes (Nov 2018)
– 5 cases, Investigations underway
– 2.4 million boxes of mix
How to Prevent Salmonella:
The easiest way to prevent Salmonella in products is by having good manufacturing
practices, washing hands, and testing.
Washing your hands is the easiest way to help prevent the spread of Salmonella. Besides
washing your hands, testing your product for Salmonella is standard practice for most
companies. Both Safe Food Alliance Lab locations have years of experience helping
companies test for Salmonella. With Safe Food Alliance, results are readily available 48 to 72
hours after receipt. If you would like to send in a sample of your commodity for analysis, click
Safe Food Alliance utilizes methods validated by the Association of Official Agricultural
Chemists (AOAC), a group closely linked to the FDA and the USDA. If you receive a positive
result, confirmation steps are taken to provide you with even more confidence that the
samples are accurate. All testing is done according to industry standards.
Another method for detection of Salmonella is testing via swabbing at the facility. Swabbing
ensures that proper sanitation processes are being met and helps avoid cross-contamination.
Environmental swabs also detect the pathogen on the surfaces of machinery, walls, floors, or
anywhere else in your facility. This type of testing needs to be done regularly and at various
locations. So don’t let it slip by! To learn more about getting swabs for testing, please contact
Kyla Ihde at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Safe Food Alliance is currently offering an Environmental Monitoring online class which
outlines the swabbing process and guidelines. For more information about the online course,
please visit https://academy.safefoodalliance.com/.