Under a new food safety law enacted last year, the Food and Drug Administration shut down the largest organic peanut butter plant in the United States. The FDA found salmonella in the Sunland, Inc. plant located in New Mexico. A total of 41 people across 20 states got sick after eating the tainted peanut butter. Because of the new food safety law, the FDA could go in and close down operations of the plant until the company can prove to the FDA that it is clean enough to reopen. Salmonella poisoning can result in a trip to the hospital or, in some cases, death.
Unfortunately, salmonella is not confined to processing plants and can be found in your home unless you take precautions. You can get salmonella poisoning from eating foods that are contaminated with salmonella or from some animals. Some foods can be contaminated at the processing level, such as the peanut butter plant; however, you can also contaminate food in your kitchen during preparation. In order to protect yourself and your family from salmonella in your home, you can take the following precautions.
- Wash hands – You should always wash your hands with warm soap and water before touching raw meat and especially after using the bathroom. Washing hands after touch raw food and between handling different foods is the best defense against salmonella.
- Do not eat raw meat or eggs – Cook poultry, ground beef and eggs until completely done. Do not eat or drink foods that contain raw eggs or unpasteurized milk.
- Wash kitchen surfaces and utensils – Wash any surface or utensil with hot water and soap immediately after contact with raw meat or poultry.
- Cutting boards – Cutting boards can be a breeding ground for salmonella and should be washed after each use. Cutting boards should be made from plastic or other nonporous materials – – not wood. You should have a separate cutting board reserved only for meats and wash it thoroughly after each use.
- Avoid contact with certain animals – Reptiles, baby chicks, ducklings and small rodents are likely to carry salmonella. Wash hands immediately and thoroughly after handling any of these animals.
- Avoid cross-contamination of foods – Keep raw meats away from cooked foods, produce and ready-to-eat foods reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
- Use paper towels when possible – Paper towels should be discarded after use instead of being reused. If you use a cloth towel, do not use it for another purpose until it has been washed in the washing machine with hot water.
- Be careful with plates – Do not place cooked food on a plate or platter that held uncooked food. This is an overlooked precaution by many when grilling because they use the same plate to put the cooked meat on when it is done as they held the uncooked meat to carry to the grill.
While the FDA will not shut down your kitchen, you should always take the same precautions as plants and restaurants to avoid getting sick salmonella poisoning.