Salmonella is found in the intestinal tract of wild and domesticated animals and humans.
Most Salmonella infections are caused by eating contaminated food, especially food from animal origins. One study found that 87% of all confirmed cases of Salmonella were foodborne, with 10 percent from person-to-person infection and 3% caused by pets. As explained in a comprehensive report issued by the USDA’s Economic Research Service:
Salmonella contamination occurs in a wide range of animal and plant products. Poultry products and eggs are frequently contaminated with S. enteritidis, while beef products are commonly contaminated with S. typhimurium. Other food sources of Salmonella may include raw milk or other dairy products and pork. Salmonella outbreaks also have been traced to contaminated vegetables and fruits.
- Always wash your hands before you start preparing food.
- Cook poultry until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 ºF.
- Cook beef and pork until they reach 160ºF. High quality steaks (not needle or blade tenderized) can be safely cooked to 145ºF.
- Cook eggs until they reach 160ºF or until the yoke is solid. Pasteurized eggs are available in some grocery stores.
- Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs. Examples include homemade eggnog, hollandaise sauce, and undercooked French toast.
- Never drink raw (unpasteurized) milk.
- Avoid using the microwave for cooking raw foods of animal origin. Microwave-cooked foods do not reach a uniform internal temperature, resulting in undercooked areas and survival of Salmonella.
- If you are served undercooked meat, poultry, or eggs in a restaurant don’t hesitate to send your food back to the kitchen for further cooking.
- Avoid cross-contamination. That means that you should never allow foods that will not be cooked (like salads) to encounter raw foods of animal origin (e.g., on dirty countertops, kitchen sinks, or cutting boards). Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw foods of animal origin.
- Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles, amphibians, or birds, or after contact with pet feces. Infants and persons with compromised immune systems should have no direct or indirect contact with such pets.
- Reptiles, amphibians or birds, or any elements of their housing (such as water bowls) should never be allowed in the kitchen.
- Avoid eating in animal barns and wash your hands with soap and water after visiting petting zoos or farm settings.
- Always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. The hands of an infected person who did not wash his or her hands adequately after using the bathroom may also contaminate food.