Salmonella is one of the leading causes of food poisoning in Australia each year. Food handlers can carry salmonella and can contaminate food during preparation.
What is salmonella?
Salmonella is a bacteria carried in the intestinal tract of many animals. There are more than 2000 types of salmonella in animals – especially poultry and pigs.
Salmonella can be found in water, soil, insects, animal faeces, raw meat, raw poultry and raw seafood and even kitchen and factory surfaces.
Almost any food can be contaminated with salmonella due to poor handling or improper hygiene practices.
The way the food is treated in the home can also increase the chance of salmonella. Salmonella poisoning from food sources has been linked to raw meat, poultry, eggs, peanut butter, orange juice, milk and dairy products.
How does salmonella affect human health?
Salmonella Typhi produces typhoid or typhoid-like fever in humans, while other forms of infection generally produce milder symptoms including nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, fever and headaches. Acute symptoms can last for one to two days or longer – leading to chronic complications such as arthritic symptoms.
All age groups are susceptible to salmonella infection, but the elderly, infants and those with deficient immune systems are most at risk.
The fatality rate of typhoid fever is 10%, compared to less than 1% for most other forms of salmonellosis. Salmonella septicemia can infect virtually every organ in the human body, leading to higher mortality rates.
How can food handlers minimise the risk of infection?
Salmonella can grow between 5-60ºC. It is important to keep hot food hot (over 60ºC) and cold food cold (below 5ºC). Cook food thoroughly. Make sure poultry, minced meats, sausages etc. are cooked through to the centre or until juices run clear.
Keep raw and cooked food separate and don’t use the same utensils for both items.
Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before and after preparing food. Use alcohol wipes or hand wash gel if hot water is not available.
Using colour coded cutting boards is a great way to make sure you won’t cross-contaminate food (e.g. red for meat, green for fruits and vegetables).
Wash utensils, cutting boards and kitchen benches with soap and warm water, and dry thoroughly before handling other foods.
Ensuring that food is prepared safely to minimise the likelihood of infection by salmonella is a key responsibility of a food handler.