Does the thought of eating undercooked chicken make you shudder? It should, because there’s a real risk of becoming contaminated with salmonella. Salmonella is the bacteria that cause salmonellosis, an infectious food-borne zoonotic disease that can lead to serious health problems in some people. (Zoonoses are diseases that can be transmitted directly or indirectly between animals and humans).
There are more than 2,000 types of Salmonella bacteria around the world. Most are found in the digestive tracts of mammals such as pigs, cattle, dogs, cats, hedgehogs and rodents, as well as in reptiles such as lizards, snakes and turtles. They are also widely found in birds. What’s more, the bacteria can survive for months in water, in feces and in the soil. Once ingested, they multiply in the small intestine and make their way into the intestinal mucosa, leading to what is commonly known as salmonella poisoning.
In 90% of cases, salmonellosis is caused by eating food that has been contaminated with animal faces. Unfortunately, contaminated food presents no tell-tale signs or odours.
Salmonella can be found in certain raw or undercooked foods such as:
- Meat and poultry
- Seafood and fish
- Eggs (and products containing eggs)
Cooking food is the only sure way to destroy salmonella. It’s worth noting, however, that all foods (including fruits and vegetables) can carry salmonella, especially if they have been washed with contaminated water or have come into contact with contaminated raw meat. The best way to protect yourself from salmonella poisoning is with impeccable hygiene.