Health Department stresses salmonella awareness, prevention

The Sweetwater-Nolan County Health Department is urging everyone to practice food safety to prevent the spread of salmonella through tips and facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Salmonella, also called food poisoning, is a bacteria which commonly causes foodborne illnesses. Most recently, news headlines have been bombarded with outbreaks due in part to eggs, peanut products and other food which has been contaminated with salmonella.This illness and infection, however, continues to affect people--while other foodborne illnesses decrease, though efforts are being made to make food safer and reduce salmonella contamination.Salmonella can not only be contracted through eggs and undercooked poultry, but from other foods such as ground meat, fruits and vegetables and even some processed foods like frozen pot pies. Ensure food safety by avoiding the ingestion of raw eggs and milk. However, raw eggs may not be recognized in certain foods such as some homemade salad dressings and mayonnaise, along with homemade tiramisu, cookies and ice cream.Sick individuals should not prepare food for others. In cooking and dealing with food, make sure your hands, the kitchen work area and kitchen tools and utensils are clean before, during, and after working with raw meats and poultry. Furthermore, avoid cross-contamination of foods by keeping uncooked meats separate from produce or foods that are already cooked or ready to eat. In addition, cook meats and eggs thoroughly. Whole meats, according to the CDC, should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit; ground meat should cook to a 160 degree Fahrenheit temperature while poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.Should you be served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs while dining out, the CDC advises to send your food back to be further cooked.Food should also be prepared carefully when made for infants, the elderly or those with weak and compromised immune systems. For young infants, the CDC also notes that mother's milk is the safest food in that breast-feeding presents salmonellosis, among other health problems.But should an individual contract a salmonella illness, most cases last between four to seven days and most people can recover without antibiotics.However, some rare cases have proven serious and have led to hospitalization. Salmonella--in comparison to other foodborne germs--is noted as the deadliest.The CDC also points out that for every 1 case that is confirmed, there are about 30 times more Salmonella cases that weren't. The majority of people who get food poisoning rarely make a visit to the doctor, thus confirmation is never made through a laboratory.These food safety practices and prevention tips to ward off salmonella must be followed year-round, but the illness tends to be more common in the summer when outdoor eating occurs.Make sure foods are kept at their appropriate temperature (hot foods hot, cold foods cold). Refrigerate leftovers or place them in a cooler or insulated bag immediately. Do not let food sit out over two hours, and reduce that time in half for days with temperatures at 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.