Most of us take precautions in our kitchens against salmonella poisoning from chicken. We wipe up any raw juices on our countertop, wash cutting boards thoroughly and cook chicken all the way through, until it’s no longer pink. This helps reduce the risk of salmonella, a bacteria that can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, headaches and in some cases more severe problems that can lead to death. The elderly, infants and those with a compromised immune systems are the most at risk of serious complications from salmonella poisoning.
While it’s smart to be vigilant with chicken, other foods are more likely to make you sick from salmonella. Chicken, beef and pork account for just 33 percent of salmonella poisonings in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Some of the other foods that are likely to make you sick may be surprising.
Leafy green vegetables — lettuces, spinach, kale and all their healthy green salad friends — are the biggest carriers of salmonella. About 35 percent of all foodborne illnesses are caused by bacteria lurking in a salad or in your sandwich fixings. The salmonella on greens is usually not as dangerous as the salmonella in chicken, but it’s more prolific, causing more intestinal issues than fatalities.
Salmonella ends up on greens if there are contaminated greens in the field, if they’ve been washed with contaminated water, or if they come in contact with contaminated surfaces, utensils or hands. Bagged salads pose an even greater risk because the juices from the cut leaves along with the moisture in the enclosed bag increase the spread of salmonella, according to CBS News.
Washing the greens won’t remove the salmonella, but that doesn’t mean you should stop eating salads or adding lettuce to your sandwich. Handling the produce safely will reduce the risk of contamination. Make sure not to use cutting boards that haven’t been thoroughly washed or utensils that have been used to handle uncooked meat. Washing your hands helps, too.
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