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  6. Salmonella (Salmonellosis)
  1. Foodborne Pathogens

Salmonella (Salmonellosis)

Salmonella are a group of bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illness and fever called salmonellosis. Salmonella can be spread by food handlers who do not wash their hands and/or the surfaces and tools they use between food preparation steps, and when people eat raw or undercooked foods. Salmonella can also spread from animals to people. People who have direct contact with certain animals, including poultry and reptiles, can spread the bacteria from the animals to food if they do not practice proper hand washing hygiene before handling food. Pets can also spread the bacteria within the home environment if they eat food contaminated with Salmonella.

Salmonella (Salmonellosis)

Who to Contact

To report a complaint or adverse event (illness or serious allergic reaction), you can

Visit www.fda.gov/fcic for additional consumer and industry assistance.

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Symptoms

Most people infected with Salmonella will begin to develop symptoms 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness, salmonellosis, usually lasts four to seven days and most people recover without treatment.

Most people with salmonellosis develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. More severe cases of salmonellosis may include a high fever, aches, headaches, lethargy, a rash, blood in the urine or stool, and in some cases may become fatal. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that approximately 450 persons in the United States die each year from acute salmonellosis.

Due to the range in severity of illness, people should consult their healthcare provider if they suspect that they have developed symptoms that resemble a Salmonella infection.

At-Risk Groups

Children younger than five, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe salmonellosis infections.

Foods Linked to U.S. Outbreaks of Salmonellosis

Past U.S. outbreaks of salmonellosis have been associated with meat products, poultry products, raw or undercooked eggs and dough, dairy products, fruits, leafy greens, raw sprouts, fresh vegetables, nut butters and spreads, pet foods and treats.

Preventing Foodborne Illness at Home

Consumers should follow these steps:

  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops, and utensils that may have contacted contaminated foods; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used. 
  • Wash and sanitize surfaces used to serve or store potentially contaminated products. 
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process. 
  • Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind.
  • People with pets should take special care to avoid cross-contamination when preparing their pet's food. Be sure to pick up and thoroughly wash food dishes as soon as pets are done eating, and prevent children, the elderly, and any other people with weak immune systems from handling or being exposed to the food or pets that have eaten potentially contaminated food.
  • Consumers can also submit a voluntarily report, a complaint, or adverse event (illness or serious allergic reaction) related to a food product.

Advice for Restaurants and Retailers

In the event that retailers and/or other food service operators are found to have handled recalled or other potentially contaminated food in their facilities, they should:

  • Contact their local health department and communicate to their customers regarding possible exposure to Salmonella.
  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops, and utensils that may have contacted contaminated foods; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
  • Wash and sanitize display cases and surfaces used to potentially store, serve, or prepare potentially contaminated foods.
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process. 
  • Conduct regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in processing to help minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination. 

For More Information

The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to Submit An Inquiry, or to visit www.fda.gov/fcic for additional information.