Salmonella – we all know its bad for us but why? What is it? Where does it come from? Why should we care? Does my company have a plan in place if something tests positive?
With all the news lately about one recall after another, it is easy to be tormented with endless questions.
I am here to tell you that with a food safety plan and proper testing, Salmonella is a threat that you can handle.
Bac-ground on Salmonella
Salmonella is one of the most difficult foodborne pathogens to eliminate. Not correctly dealing with the pathogen is harmful to your company’s reputation and pocketbook. According to an annual study done by Food Safety News, foodborne illness in the United States has an annual estimated cost of $77.7 to $152 billion, not including reduced customer confidence, recall losses, litigation or the cost from public health agencies who respond to the outbreak (8).
Salmonella itself is a motile, facultative anaerobe bacterium which causes salmonellosis. That means that Salmonella is a fast-moving bacterium, that can survive with or without oxygen, and causes Salmonellosis (Salmonella infection). Salmonellosis is the way to describe being symptomatically infected by Salmonella.
Salmonella was first isolated in 1885 by an assistant to American scientist, Dr. Daniel Salmon. Since then, scientists have discovered many different variations (~2,500 serotypes) of Salmonella which can cause infection. The bacteria cause illness for 4 to 7 days. In some cases, Salmonella can escape from the intestines and enter the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, it infects other body sites causing severe infections. Children under the age of five, elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to have severe infections. Research has shown that Salmonella infections are more likely to occur during the summer months. Therefore extra care must be taken from May thru August to prevent outbreaks in your facility.
By the Numbers
In 2018 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated:
- 1,027,567 cases of Salmonella
- 19,336 resulted in hospitalizations
- 378 of cases resulted in death
- Roughly 13% of all foodborne deaths come from Salmonella
How Do You Become Infected?
Salmonella is in raw and undercooked eggs, poultry, meat, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, water, and unpasteurized dairy products. To grow, Salmonella colonizes in the intestines of animals and spreads through feces. Humans can also spread the pathogen. Not washing hands after a bowel movement followed by direct contact with another person, touching a surface, or preparing food leads to transmission. If you think not washing your hands is the only cause, you thought wrong. Water infected with the bacteria can provide an optimum environment for growth. When contaminated water spreads onto irrigate crops, the final product delivers the bacteria into the consumers home.
Why Test for Salmonella?
- Public health impact (deaths, hospitalizations)
- Contamination in water (Adulteration of the food supply chain)
- Company Reputation (Loss of consumer confidence)
- Recalls, FDA Investigations (Time and lost money, black mark on company name)
- Economic loss (Bankruptcy, cost of finding recalled product)
- Lawsuits, prison sentences (Selling food known/unknown to be positive)
As you can see, Salmonella has a genuine impact on the longevity of a business.
2018 Salmonella Outbreaks and Cost:
- Pre-Cut Melons (July 2018)
- $2.9 million loss
- 1,532 pounds of product
- Breakfast Cereal (September 2018 not completed)
- 2.4% drop in company sales
- Unknown amount needed to recall
How to Prevent Salmonella
The easiest way to prevent Salmonella in products is by having good manufacturing practices, washing hands, and testing.
Besides washing your hands, testing your product for Salmonella is standard practice for most companies. Both Safe Food Alliance Lab locations have years of experience helping companies test for Salmonella. With Safe Food Alliance, results are readily available 48 to 72 hours after receipt. If you would like to send in a sample of your commodity for analysis, click here.
Safe Food Alliance utilizes methods validated by the Association of Official Agricultural Chemists (AOAC), a group closely linked to the FDA and the USDA. If you receive a positive result, confirmation steps are taken to provide you with even more confidence that the samples are accurate. All testing is done according to industry standards.
Another method for detection of Salmonella is testing via swabbing at the facility. Swabbing ensures that proper sanitation processes are being met and helps avoid cross-contamination. Environmental swabs also detect the pathogen on the surfaces of machinery, walls, floors, or anywhere else in your facility. This type of testing needs to be done regularly and at various locations. So don’t let it slip by! To learn more about getting swabs for testing, please contact Kyla Ihde at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Safe Food Alliance is currently offering an Environmental Monitoring online class which outlines the swabbing process and guidelines. For more information about the online course, please visit https://academy.safefoodalliance.com/.