Ask Dr. Nandi: Why are so many products being recalled over salmonella concerns?

Posted at 2:24 PM, Jul 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-26 07:14:49-04

Some favorite kids' snacks are under a potential salmonella recall. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers and Ritz Crackers have joined the growing list of potentially contaminated items.

The list of foods that may be contaminated with salmonella also include Swiss rolls and Kellogg's Honey Smacks. According to the USDA, it's the whey powder in the products that are to blame.

Dr. Nandi breaks down the recent wave of packaged food concerns. 

Question: What is salmonella and how can it get into packaged foods?

Salmonella is a bacteria that makes you sick with symptoms like fever, diarrhea and stomach cramps. You can get it when you eat foods that have been contaminated with animal feces that contain the bacteria.  It gets spread when someone doesn’t wash their hands or when small dirt spores that carry traces of animal poop get inside a food manufacturing plant.  The CDC estimates roughly 1.2 million people each year become ill from salmonella so unfortunately, food poisoning is very common.

Question: What happens when salmonella is found in dry foods?

I’m sure a lot of people are surprised at some of the recent food recalls.  We often hear about salmonella in eggs, meat and salads but it can also be found in dry foods.  That’s because this bacteria can live in dry environments.  And once it’s inside a food plant, it can cling to the equipment and get inside packaged foods like cereal and crackers.  For food plants to get rid of salmonella, they will need to be thoroughly cleaned with an ethanol-based sanitizer, dry ice, peracetic acid or chlorine bleach.  

Question: What can people do to prevent salmonella?

There is no vaccine to prevent salmonellosis, but there are safety steps you can take.  If you handle birds, reptiles or baby chicks, or clean up pet poop, be sure to wash your hands afterward using soap.   After preparing raw meat, you need to clean up anything that came in contact with it like your counters, hands, cutting boards and utensils.  Also, be sure to cook ground beef, poultry and eggs thoroughly.  And lastly please do not eat foods that contain raw eggs or unpasteurized milk as these can also be contaminated.  Salmonella is not usually life-threatening but older folks, babies, and anyone with a weakened immune system can really develop dangerous complications and would likely need to be hospitalized.