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After all that talk about tomatoes, it turns out that they might not be the actual source of the most recent salmonella outbreak. In fact, accor
ding to the FDA, of the 1,700 tomato samples collected, none have tested positive for the rare salmonella saintpaul strain. So, while the easy answer to avoiding this recent salmonella outbreak seemed to be abstaining from tomatoes or at least certain types of tomatoes altogether, at this point that doesn’t quite seem to be such a foolproof solution.

That being said, don’t purge all the information that you have gathered thus far. Tomatoes still remain a suspect, and the advice on which ones to avoid has not changed. However, because the investigation continues and the actual culprit might still be on the market, be sure read the following information on salmonella, its signs and symptoms, and some tips on avoiding salmonella and other foodborne illnesses.

Most people have heard of salmonella, but do we really know what it is? Salmonellosis is a serious foodborne illness caused by salmonella bacteria. It typically results from eating food contaminated with the feces from an infected animal or person. It is more common in the summertime, and those most at risk of getting Salmonellosis include young children, the elderly and the immunocompromised.

Although most people recover without treatment, some require hospitalization. The symptoms appear suddenly, usually beginning about 6 to 72 hours after infection and lasting about 4-7 days. Symptoms include headache, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, fever, and dehydration. If you are concerned about the possibility of salmonella infection, the CDC recommends seeking medical care.

There is no vaccine for salmonella, but there are a number of food safety precautions you can take to reduce your risk of salmonella and other foodborne infections.

At the Store:

1. Put refrigerated items in your cart last. And, if your drive home from the store is over an hour, consider putting these items in a cooler to maintain freshness.

2. Always check the expiration date on labels. And, even if the date seems acceptable, don’t buy food that smells or looks strange.

3. Make sure eggs are grade A or AA, and check inside egg cartons to ensure that that the eggs are clean and free from cracks.

4. Don’t buy fruit with broken skin as bacteria can enter through the skin or unpasteurized ciders or juices as they might contain harmful bacteria.

5. Don’t buy pre-stuffed turkeys or chickens.

At Home:

1. Always ensure that your refrigerator and freezer are at the proper temperatures before putting away food. To prevent bacteria from multiplying, keep your your refrigerator at 40°F (5°C) and your freezer at 0°F (-18°C) or lower. If your appliances are not equipped with thermostats, you can buy one.

2. Put refrigerated and frozen foods away first.

3. Keep eggs in the original carton, do not allow raw eggs to sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours, and thoroughly cook eggs before eating them.

4. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that meats are cooked thoroughly.

5. Scrub all fruits and vegetables with plain water, even if you plan on peeling them, to remove any pesticides or dirt. If you use a knife to cut melons, wash the melons thoroughly to avoid carrying bacteria from the rind to the knife to the inside of the fruit.

6. Remove outer leaves of leafy greens.

Follow the above tips to protect yourself and your family against salmonella and other foodborne illness year-round. And, be sure to keep posted on any updates regarding this recent salmonella outbreak.

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