Animal & Veterinary

Think Food Safety and Be Salmonella Safe!

When you, your family members, or your pets touch or eat raw or undercooked meat, poultry, and egg products or food that has been improperly cooked, there’s a risk for getting sick from Salmonella.


Some Salmonella Facts
How do people get Salmonella?
What are the symptoms of Salmonella infection in people?
What the signs of Salmonella infection in dogs and cats?
How can I be Salmonella Safe?
What is FDA doing to help keep me Salmonella Safe?
Who should my parents or I contact for more information?
Helpful Websites


Some Salmonella Facts

  • Salmonella are a group of bacteria that can make people and animals sick from a foodborne illness called salmonellosis. The illness is called “foodborne” because the bacteria are carried, or “borne,” in or on food.
  • Salmonella live in the intestines of people and animals. Some animals, especially cows, pigs, chickens, rodents (like mice), reptiles (like turtles, snakes, and lizards), and amphibians (like frogs and salamanders) can naturally carry Salmonella in their intestines and on their bodies, but look and act healthy.
  • Salmonella are so small that you can’t see them with your eyes. You have a use a microscope to see the bacteria.
  • Salmonella can contaminate a variety of food, such as meat, eggs, milk, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and even chocolate, ice cream, and peanut butter. Salmonella can also contaminate pet food and pet treats, such as dog biscuits, pig ears, rawhide, and beef hooves.
  • Salmonella was named after Daniel E. Salmon, a veterinarian who studied animal diseases for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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How do people get Salmonella?

People get Salmonella by accidentally eating the bacteria. “Gross,” you say. “I would never eat bacteria.” But remember, you can’t see the bacteria with your eyes so you don’t even know you’re eating them. You can accidentally eat Salmonella when you:

  • Eat raw or undercooked meat, poultry, and egg products.
  • Drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or eat dairy products that contain raw milk.
  • Eat food contaminated with the feces (poop) of people or animals. For example, someone who doesn’t know he has Salmonella forgets to wash his hands with soap and water after using the bathroom and then prepares a sandwich and serves it to you. This can spread the bacteria to you.
  • Touch contaminated pet food or treats and then touch your mouth.
  • Touch or hold pets, especially reptiles, amphibians, baby chicks, or other small animals, and then touch your mouth. Kissing these animals can also cause you to accidentally eat Salmonella.
  • Touch animal poop and then touch your mouth. Dogs and cats that eat pet food or treats contaminated with Salmonella can have the bacteria in their feces, even if they don’t show signs of being sick.

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What are the symptoms of Salmonella infection in people?

In people, symptoms of Salmonella infection include:

  • Fever;
  • Diarrhea (which can become severe and may be bloody);
  • Vomiting; and
  • Stomach cramps.

Symptoms start 12 hours to 3 days after a person accidentally eats Salmonella. Most people get better in 4 to 7 days without needing to see a doctor, but they should drink lots of water and other fluids.

Children under 5-years-old, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems (like people with cancer or other diseases) have a higher risk of getting a bad Salmonella infection and can die if their symptoms are severe.

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What are the signs of Salmonella infection in dogs and cats?

Dogs and cats don’t commonly get sick from Salmonella. When the disease is seen in an adult dog or cat, the animal usually has another illness at the same time. Puppies and kittens can get sick if they accidentally eat a large number of the bacteria. Signs of Salmonella infection in dogs and cats include:

  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea (which may be bloody);
  • Fever;
  • Not wanting to eat; and
  • Being less active—they won’t want to play and will lie around more than normal.

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How can I be Salmonella Safe?

Hand Washing

Frequent hand washing is the best way you can be Salmonella Safe and lower your risk of getting Salmonella or passing the bacteria to other people. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds immediately after you:

  • Touch raw meat and poultry products;
  • Touch eggs and egg products;
  • Touch your pets or other animals, especially reptiles, amphibians, and birds;
  • Feed your pets or give them treats;
  • Clean up after your pets when they poop outside or use the litter box; and
  • Go to the bathroom.

Kitchen Safety

It’s also important to be Salmonella Safe in your kitchen by following these tips:

  • Cook all food thoroughly to the proper temperature. Foodsafety.gov has a chart of the safe minimum cooking temperatures for various food along with other great tips on how to keep your food safe;
  • Don’t eat or drink anything that has uncooked eggs or raw (unpasteurized) milk;
  • Refrigerate food promptly;
  • Clean and disinfect kitchen surfaces and utensils often; and
  • Keep raw food separate from other food.

Pet Food and Pet Treats

Most pet food and treats are properly processed so they’re Salmonella free and safe for your pet to eat and for you to touch. But sometimes, pet food and treats can be contaminated with Salmonella during processing and you won’t know by looking at the food. Follow these tips for the safe handling of pet food and treats.

Don’t feed your pet a raw diet because raw pet food is more likely than other types of pet food to be contaminated with Salmonella.

Pet Reptiles and Amphibians

If you own a pet reptile or amphibian, don’t let it roam freely throughout your house and keep it away from children under 5-years-old, the elderly, or people with weakened immune systems.

Pet turtles are cute but can be a source of Salmonella.

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What is FDA doing to help keep me Salmonella Safe?

To help keep you Salmonella Safe, FDA:

  • Inspects food processing plants in the U.S.;
  • Screens food that comes into the U.S. from other countries;
  • Works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the states to make sure that milk pasteurization plants are inspected;
  • Occasionally tests pet food and pet treats to look for Salmonella. FDA has a zero-tolerance policy for Salmonella in pet food and treats, meaning if the harmful bacteria is found during testing, the agency will take action against the manufacturer of the contaminated product.
  • Regulates how turtles are sold in the U.S.; and
  • Works with veterinarians and food animal producers to use antibiotics wisely to slow down the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in food-producing animals, such as cows, pigs, and chickens. Using antibiotics wisely means that the drugs are only used in animals when necessary and in the proper way.

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Who should my parents or I contact for more information?

  • If you have questions about the food you eat, call FDA at 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332) or 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366).
  • If you have questions about the food your pets eat or Salmonella in animals, call FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine at 240-402-7002 or email AskCVM@fda.hhs.gov.
  • If you have questions about Salmonella in people, call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or go to Contact CDC-INFO.

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Helpful Websites

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Page Last Updated: 10/18/2016
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