CHICKEN AND SALMONELLA – WHY, PREVENTION AND SAFETY

Our apologies for not being here for a while… but we are now back in business! Welcome back everybody to this new entry in our Blog.

Recently we have been hearing more and more news about chicken contamination, especially due to Salmonella, which causes more foodborne illnesses than any other bacteria according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). The CDC also estimates that every year one million people get sick from eating contaminated chicken. Therefore, the importance of vigilance and hygienic care in the consumption of this food is key.

But can Salmonella really be found in the chicken we eat?

According to the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), about 1 in 25 packages of chicken in the supermarket is contaminated with Salmonella. In addition, about half of the chicken we consume is contaminated with Campylobacter, which is another bacteria very common in this matrix. To sum up, yes: the raw chicken we find in our daily lives is a dangerous source of bacterial contamination.

What could happen if we eat chicken contaminated with Salmonella?

People can catch salmonellosis, the disease caused by Salmonella bacteria, by eating raw or undercooked chicken, or even just by touching it.

The usual symptoms are stomach cramps, diarrhoea and fever. This illness usually lasts 4-7 days and no treatment is usually necessary for the patient’s recovery. In the rarest of cases, a Salmonella infection can cause death if not treated promptly with antibiotics.

This latter event is being studied extensively in recent years, because according to the NARMS report: the majority of Salmonella from humans (81%) is not resistant to any of the antimicrobials tested. So is no nonsense for us to be extremely careful in the handling of this food.

Picture showing a chef handling chicken in the kitchen

What are the indicators that our chicken is in poor condition due to bacterial contamination?

If the chicken is raw, we can observe the following main factors:

  • Slime / slippery texture
  • Greyish colour
  • Strong, sour smell
  • Presence of mould

If the chicken is cooked:

  • Rotten egg odour
  • Uneven colour, or shows grey or white spots
  • Sour, strange taste

Through these factors you may be able to detect abnormal bacterial growth and avoid consuming chicken which may lead to developing an important disease.

What actions can we take to prevent the proliferation of Salmonella and other infectious bacteria during the handling of chicken in our own homes?

Some tips to avoid contamination are the following:

  • Washing off hands before and after handling chicken.
  • NOT washing raw chicken. During this process, chicken juices contaminated by bacteria can transfer from the food to other foods, cutlery, or even to the counter or sink where other foods will be handled later, proliferating this contamination.
  • Likewise, washing cutting boards, cutlery, dishes and counters with hot soapy water after handling chicken.
  • Never bringing raw chicken into contact with food that has already been cooked or is being consumed fresh.
  • Using a food thermometer to verify cooking of chicken to a safe internal temperature of 75°C or higher, as high temperatures can kill up to 100% of contaminating bacteria.
  • Never accepting chicken that is not fully cooked.
  • Refrigerating or freezing leftover chicken the sooner the better. Never leaving it for more than one hour at temperatures of 30°C or higher.

Is the food industry concerned about Salmonella contamination and does it make decisions to prevent its appearance in the different foods we consume?

In general, there is a clear awareness in the food industry to prevent contamination by this and other pathogens, both in chicken and in other matrixes vulnerable to their appearance. There are currently many food additives or preservatives that prevent the development of these bacteria, which are used by a large percentage of manufacturers in all sectors. Every day we receive enquiries from numerous companies that want to use Amerex’s natural alternatives to fight this problem. Through our clean label solutions adapted to every challenge in the food sector, in this case thanks to our range of preservatives, we are able to minimise the risks in the appearance of Salmonella and other pathogenic bacteria, thus increasing the safety of the final product and, therefore, for all of us.

We hope that this blog entry has made you a little bit more aware of how to handle this food that is so common in our kitchens. To accept these “good practices” and to include them in your daily routine will definitely improve the food safety.

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