Why do we only catch salmonella from eating raw or undercooked chicken/eggs?

Roberta Torricelli

salmonella toySalmonella is a bacterium commonly found in a variety of foods including: chicken, beef, pork, eggs and even some vegetables such as carrots and onions. We are most often told to beware of it when eating raw eggs and chicken meat because it is very common for chickens, ducks and other poultry to carry it naturally in their intestines where the bacteria can then be passed on through faeces. However, this bacterium can infect other animals or fruits and vegetables if it happen to come into contact with them.

 

Unfortunately, when food is contaminated with Salmonella, it still looks, tastes, and smells the same, making it difficult for us to know if it’s safe to eat it. This is where understanding how to prevent the infection becomes important.

 

Cooking food before we eat it is one of the main strategies against Salmonella infection. This is because heat kills the bacteria found in the food, making it safer for us to have. As a general rule of thumb, all food should be cooked at a temperature of around 74°C (165°F). However, to ensure all the bacteria has been killed off, we should ideally cook our food always the whole way through, or as we otherwise say “well done”. This ensures that even if some of the bacteria has spread from the surface to the rest, it will not be harmful once we eat it.

 

Washing our hands and utensils (cutting board, knife etc.) after they have touched raw foods is another very helpful prevention technique, as some of the bacteria might have deposited from the food to the surface that has touched it.

 

Finally, Salmonella illness can be serious, which is why we must be careful and avoid the spread. Symptoms include diarrhoea, fever, and stomach cramps. Most people recover without antibiotic treatment, but others may need hospitalization and stronger medications.