Following Salmonella Outbreak, FDA Offers Food Safety Reminders

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Salmonella Outbreak and Food Safety

As it investigates an outbreak of illnesses that may be related to Salmonella typhimurium bacteria in produce, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reminding consumers of steps they can take to keep their food safe.

Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses.

Based on information currently available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the investigation shows a peak in cases of illness in September. This suggests that the outbreak is no longer ongoing. The agency believes that contaminated food products that caused the illnesses have at this point been consumed, destroyed or thrown out because they are perishable. Therefore, FDA does not believe a consumer warning about produce on store shelves is warranted at this time.

FDA is working closely with states and CDC to identify the most likely food item(s) that caused the current outbreak. If and when a food item is identified, FDA will investigate where the product came from and what may have gone wrong during its production, packing or distribution that could have led to contamination with Salmonella.

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Investigations of foodborne illness usually begin at the local health department level. A variety of scientific and technological methods to trace the source of reported illnesses are used. Modern technologies, such as PulseNet (the network of public health laboratories that performs "DNA fingerprinting"), have greatly improved the speed and precision of these types of investigations.

In light of recent outbreaks, FDA is emphasizing consumer advice to reduce the risk of foodborne illness, including Salmonella-related illness, from fresh produce:

Buying Tips for Fresh Produce

  • Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged.

  • When selecting fresh cut produce - such as a half a watermelon or bagged mixed salad greens - choose only those items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

  • Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry and seafood products when packing them to take home from the market.

Storage Tips for Fresh Produce

  • Certain perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms) can be best maintained by storing in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40

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