Salmonella and Food
You may know that Salmonella can contaminate poultry and eggs but it also sneaks its way into many other foods – ground beef, tuna, pork, tomatoes, sprouts, and even peanut butter. Learn what you can do to make your food safer to eat.
Salmonella is a bacteria that commonly causes foodborne illness, sometimes called "food poisoning." Every year, Salmonella is estimated to cause 1 million foodborne illnesses in the United States. Outbreaks of illness linked to Salmonella-contaminated cucumbers, chicken, raw tuna, and many other foods have occurred in the past few years.
Six Facts That May Surprise You
Don't let Salmonella sneak up on you or your loved ones. Find out six facts that may surprise you, and learn how to lower your chance of getting sick.
Do I have a Salmonella infection?
Contact your doctor or healthcare provider if you have:
- Diarrhea along with a temperature over 101.5°F
- Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
- Bloody stools
- Prolonged vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down
- Signs of dehydration, such as:
- Making very little urine
- Dry mouth and throat
- Dizziness when standing up
- You can get Salmonella from eating a variety of foods. Salmonella can be found in a variety of foods including chicken, vegetables, eggs, fruits, sprouts, beef, pork — and even processed foods, such as frozen pot pies and stuffed chicken entrees. Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal, which is why it is important to know how to prevent Salmonella infection.
- Salmonella illness can be serious and is more dangerous for certain people. In most cases, illness lasts 4–7 days and people recover without antibiotic treatment. Symptoms of infection include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Symptoms typically appear 6 to 48 hours after eating a contaminated food; though this time frame may be substantially longer in some cases. Diarrhea can be severe, and the person may be ill enough to require hospitalization. Although anyone can get a Salmonella infection, older adults, infants, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a serious illness.
- For every one case of Salmonella illness confirmed in the laboratory, there are about 29 more cases of Salmonella illnesses that are not confirmed. Most people who get food poisoning usually do not go the doctor or submit a sample to a laboratory and so no one learns what germ made them sick. That's why Salmonella causes more illness than you might suspect. Reporting suspected outbreaks of foodborne illnesses to your local health department helps disease detectives identify outbreaks and stop them from happening again.
- Salmonella illness is more common in the summer. Warmer weather and unrefrigerated foods create ideal conditions for Salmonella to grow. When eating outdoors in the summer, such as in the backyard or on a picnic, be sure to refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods, and leftovers within 2 hours (or 1 hour if the temperature is 90°F or hotter).
- To avoid Salmonella, you should not eat raw or lightly cooked (runny whites or yolks) eggs. Salmonella can contaminate perfectly normal-looking eggs. Cooking reduces the number of Salmonella bacteria in an egg. Lightly cooked egg whites and yolks have caused Salmonella infections. Learn more >
- You can reduce the chance of Salmonella infection for you and your family. Remember to follow the clean, separate, cook, and chill guidelines. Be especially careful to follow the guidelines when preparing food for children, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, and older adults.
Check Your Steps
Follow the Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill guidelines to help keep you and your family safe from food poisoning.
- Wash hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling uncooked eggs, or raw meat, poultry, and seafood and their juices.
- Wash utensils, cutting boards, dishes, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to prepare the next item.
- Don't wash raw poultry, meat, and eggs before cooking. Bacteria can spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces.
- Sanitize food contact surfaces with a freshly made solution of one tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in one gallon of water.
- Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from other foods in your grocery cart and in your refrigerator. Keep eggs in the original carton and store them in the main compartment of the refrigerator, not in the door.
- Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods, such as salads and deli meat.
- Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce and for meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
- Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
- Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature:
- 145°F for beef, veal, lamb, and fish
- 145°F for pork and ham (allowing the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating)
- 160°F for ground beef, ground pork, ground veal, and ground lamb
- 160°F for egg dishes
- 165°F for poultry (chicken, turkey, duck), including ground chicken and ground turkey
- 165°F for casseroles
- Microwave food to 165°F or above.
- Keep food at 145°F or above after cooking.
- Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or colder.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods, and leftovers within 2 hours (or 1 hour if the temperature is 90°F or hotter).
For more information about Salmonella, foodborne illness, and food safety, call 1-800-CDC-INFO, submit a question or visit these websites:
- Page last reviewed: July 8, 2016
- Page last updated: July 8, 2016
- Content source:
- National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs