Contrary to conventional wisdom, bathrooms are not the most dangerous rooms in a house, but kitchens are. Improper handling of foods and not cleaning well can foster the growth of germs like salmonella. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 40,000 cases of salmonellosis every year in the United States. Knowing which foods can contaminate your kitchen can help you prevent this disease.
Raw foods. Salmonella lives primarily on raw eggs and poultry products, but the CDC says that salmonella can also live on raw fruits and vegetables. Be careful when eating foods that may have raw eggs in them like hollandaise sauce or tiramisu because the risk of salmonellosis is much higher. Consuming unpasteurized milk can also carry a risk of salmonella.
Certain household pets. Surprisingly, salmonella can also be carried by common household pets like birds, chickens and reptiles, including turtles and lizards. The CDC recommends that children not touch these pets without supervision and wash their hands immediately after handling them. Baby birds, chicks and reptiles should never be kissed due to the risk of salmonellosis.
Even though salmonella can be found in a variety of food and non-food places, there are several ways to prevent it from making you or your family sick.
Keep it cool. Cold foods should always be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the CDC. This ensures an environment hostile to salmonella germs. Food should be refrigerated until just before you cook it to prevent it from warming to any unsafe temperatures. When thawing frozen foods, use the refrigerator rather than letting food thaw on the countertop. This will not only prevent salmonella growth, but also keep your food protected from other germs and external elements like insects.
Preparation and cooking. Food should always be cooked thoroughly to avoid salmonella, especially eggs and chicken, and raw foods should be stored separately from foods that don’t require cooking. If you are handling raw foods, use separate utensils and cutting boards to avoid cross-contamination.
Cleaning. When in doubt, wash your hands again. Salmonella lives on the skin, so care should be taken not to touch your mouth or face after handling food that could contain salmonella. If you suspect someone of being sick, don’t let them handle any food preparation and make sure they sanitize their hands before touching anything to prevent the spread of germs.