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Salmonella in food


What is Salmonella?

Salmonella is a bacterium that can be found in the gut of many pet, livestock and wild animals as well as in people

What illness does it cause?

Salmonellosis (a type of gastroenteritis). This illness is a nationally notifiable disease and must be reported to health authorities.

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms include diarrhoea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever and headaches. Sometimes the diarrhoea may contain blood and/or mucous.

In some cases, the illness can become more complicated from severe dehydration or lead to longer-term problems such as arthritis.

Symptoms usually start 12-36 hours after a person becomes infected (e.g. after eating contaminated food). Most people are sick for 4 to 7 days, but sometimes for longer.

Sometimes infected people have no symptoms.

Who can get sick?

Anyone can get salmonellosis but it is more likely that very young children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems (e.g. cancer patients) could get seriously ill.

Where does it come from?

Salmonella can get into soil, water and food from the faeces (poo) of animals or people, for example from contact with grazing animals, animal manure fertiliser, sewerage or dirty hands.

Common foods that can be contaminated with Salmonella include meat, chicken, eggs, milk, raw fruits and vegetables, and ‘low moisture foods’ like spices, peanut butter and chocolate.

How can people get sick?

  • By eating contaminated raw or undercooked food, especially eggs, meat and chicken
  • By bacteria on equipment, food or hands being transferred to food that is ready to eat (won’t be further cooked)
  • By touching contaminated objects or surfaces and then touching your mouth (e.g. while eating)
  • By an infected person transferring bacteria to another person or object

How can illness be prevented?

  • Keep hands and equipment clean when preparing and eating food
  • Avoid cross contamination − for example use separate cutting boards and knives for raw and ready-to-eat food, and store cooked food separately from raw foods
  • Wash raw fruit and vegetables
  • Cook food thoroughly, especially poultry and eggs
  • Keep food cold (5°C or colder) or keep cooked food hot (60°C or hotter) before it is served
  • Avoid using dirty or cracked eggs and wash hands after handling eggs


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