Salmonella is a condition that has gone off of the radar to an extent. A few years ago it was something that everyone was concerned about getting and that carried many warnings, but today – like BSE – it is not longer spoken about as commonly. The reason for this is that the problem has largely been controlled when it comes to eggs, and our education is now such that cases are far rarer. This does not however mean that the problem no longer exists, and we are in fact still at risk of salmonella poisoning from a range of different sources and it is still highly important to remain vigilant to prevent it.
The first thing most people think of when they hear the word ‘salmonella’ is raw eggs, and it is common knowledge that eating uncooked eggs can cause salmonella. As mentioned though, this is a problem that has largely been controlled and that we no longer need to be quite as concerned about. Bodybuilders often eat raw eggs (though the biotin deficiency that this can cause means that this is not necessarily beneficial) and even many recipes – including authentic carbonara – have raw eggs involved. So is there still a risk and can you still eat eggs?
The answer is that eggs are in fact fairly safe to eat raw if you so wish and this is highly unlikely to cause you salmonella. The reason for this is that the chances of an egg (in the West) containing salmonella are 0.0003% (this is 2.3 million eggs in the 69 billion that are produced each year). Salmonella is a condition that affects the chickens and is relatively rare, if the chicken wasn’t infected then the egg will be fine.
At the same time, of these eggs, those containing salmonella are almost all battery hens. On top of this some free range eggs are even tested for salmonella and if you look for this on the packaging then there is almost zero chance of you getting salmonella. And even if you did then you would still most likely only have a mild case and it wouldn’t be too much of a problem.
So if you want to eat raw eggs then eat free range eggs that have been tested for salmonella and be confident that you stand almost no chance of getting salmonella as a result. Many other things can cause salmonella still, and it’s important to take precautions to avoid these things.
Re-Heated Chicken: If possible then avoid re-heating chicken. In some cases you will decide you want to such as if you have lots left over from a meal, but in this case just make sure to thoroughly reheat it rather than just putting it in the microwave for a couple of minutes.
Avoid Uncooked Chicken: It might sound obvious, but there are many situations in which people find themselves eating chicken that is uncooked or not properly cooked. Make sure to thoroughly heat your chicken through whenever you cook it, and to always inspect it when you eat it out. Chicken is a white meat, so any signs of redness should ring alarm bells. Cut it up and check inside before you eat any.
Avoid Packed Sandwiches: If you’re stopping at a petrol station and eating packed sandwiches then be weary of getting very cheap ones as these can sometimes be low quality.
Be Careful Where You Eat: Likewise make sure when you eat out that the restaurants have got good reviews and that they have met certain health and safety standards. When there, look around and see if the place seems to be clean and well maintained. There is always a risk of getting food poisoning no matter how classy the establishment, but being a bit choosy can certainly reduce the risk.
Don’t Prepare Food on Unclean Surfaces: Make sure that you regularly disinfect all your kitchen surfaces before preparing food and use chopping boards to avoid having your food touch the surfaces directly. At the same time be sure to continually wash your hands during cooking.
Wash Your Vegetables and Fruit: Salmonella doesn’t just come from chicken, and in fact there has been a recent outbreak of salmonella found in tomatoes. Any food that grows from the ground can be a risk so make sure to wash tomatoes, grapes, spinach, cabbage, potatoes and anything else very thoroughly before eating. Cut off any vines or roots attached to the ground directly and cut the hard ‘nibs’ off tomatoes which is where bacteria can implant itself.
Using Food Thermometers
If you want to make extra sure that all of your food is cooked to a satisfactory level then use a food thermometer. This will check the internal temperature of your food so you can ensure that you cooked it at at least the minimal temperature required to kill bacteria.
When you use your food thermometer look at the readings and ensure that they are at least those below:
Red Meat – 145F
Pork – 160F
Poultry – 165F
Fish – 145F
Ground Meats – 160F
Make sure to bring all soups and gravies to the boil. By following these steps and being sensible and vigilant you can ensure that you avoid a nasty case of salmonella.