Clean, cook, separate and chill: expert advice to prevent salmonella cross contamination

Published: Jul. 25, 2018 at 10:36 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2018 at 8:27 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - By now you've heard about the voluntary recall of Ritz crackers, goldfish, and swiss rolls. According to the Food and Drug Administration, they all contain a common ingredient, whey powder.

It seems like salmonella is in the news a lot lately, mostly because there are over 2,000 variations of the bacteria, according to LSU Ag Center Food Safety Specialist Wenquing Xu. She said the organism is constantly evolving.

"It's always has been related with a big variety of foods," said Xu. "People's attention is kind of shifting after fresh produce had salmonella outbreaks as well as processed foods."

So, it comes as no surprise to Xu when the FDA revealed whey powder, supplied by Associated Milk Producers, possibly contained the bacteria. That same powder is found in Ritz cheese sandwiches, some Pepperidge Farm's Goldfish, and Flowers Foods' Swiss Rolls, all of which were recently recalled.

"It has this feature that it becomes very heat resistant when the water activity of the foods goes down. So, it's not surprising. It also can survive on top of a cantaloupe because it's very dry, normally other things wouldn't survive. If you have dry foods and provide heat to it, other organisms will be killed but not salmonella," Xu explained.

She added when water content goes down in a product, the harder it becomes to kill salmonella. Experts say the best way to prevent cross-contamination, even in your own home, is following the four principles of food safety: clean, cook, separate, and chill.

"Clean your hands after you handle raw meat and poultry and touch fresh produce and when you clean the kitchen. You have to separate your raw meat from your ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross-contamination. When you cook your poultry, you have to cook it at 165 degrees to make sure you get the sufficient kill of the salmonella. You have to chill after you cook your foods. If you have leftovers, you want to put them in the fridge as soon as possible," Xu stated.

"Make sure your kitchen is clean," advised Dr. Donald Carson with Our Lady of the Lake. "Make sure that you wash things before you eat them and make sure you wash them thoroughly."

So far, health officials have not reported any illnesses associated with these recalls.

Symptoms of the bacteria may vary, but experts say the most common symptoms are abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and possible fever.

High-risk patients, like children under 5 years old, the elderly, pregnant women, and immune-compromised patients might experience more complicated symptoms and should see a doctor immediately.

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