Food safety isn’t just about compliance or protecting a company’s reputation — it can literally be a life-or-death issue for consumers who come into contact with contaminated products. Each year, there are an estimated 48 million cases of foodborne illness caused by a wide variety of pathogens. Salmonella, a harmful bacteria, has become the second-leading cause of foodborne illnesses in the United States

There are an estimated 1.35 million cases of salmonellosis each year, with illnesses resulting in more than 25,000 hospitalizations and as many as 420 deaths. In most cases, the primary source of these infections is contaminated food. Stakeholders in the food and beverage industry must know how outbreaks occur and what steps they can take to mitigate risks. 

What causes Salmonella outbreaks? 

Salmonella is a bacteria commonly found in raw or undercooked meat, eggs, and poultry, as well as unpasteurized dairy. Due to cross-contamination in food processing facilities, it can also be present in fruits, vegetables, and processed foods. 

Typically, exposure to Salmonella stems from: 

  • Undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs 
    Salmonella in contaminated products cannot survive at an internal temperature above 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Unwashed fruits and vegetables 
    Salmonella does not infect produce, but can survive on the skins of fruits and vegetables if it comes into contact with contaminated meat or surfaces. Washing produce is critical to avoid spreading bacteria. 

How Manufacturers Can Prevent Salmonella Outbreaks 

The best way to protect public health is to prevent Salmonella contamination within the food processing operation so the bacteria never reaches consumers. Modern Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans are designed to reduce the risk of most pathogens, including Salmonella. However, food and beverage manufacturers should take special precautions to stop the spread of Salmonella through their facilities by: 

  • Preventing cross-contamination 
    Manufacturers need to segregate and control traffic between raw and cooked areas of their processing operation to prevent cross-contamination. This includes using separate processing and material handling equipment, utensils, and storage areas for raw and cooked foods — and even restricting employees to either a raw or cooked zone for the entirety of their shift. 
  • Maintaining stringent hygiene and sanitation practices 
    Workers should follow cleaning and sanitation protocols for all work surfaces, equipment, and utensils. Employees should also maintain appropriate personal hygiene practices throughout their shifts, including proper and frequent handwashing. 
  • Monitoring the environment for pathogens 
    The FDA recommends regular testing of food product samples for Salmonella to validate that manufacturers’ food safety procedures are working as intended. Manufacturers can also regularly monitor the environment for pathogens, especially after the kill step in the processing operation to ensure it was done properly. Workers should take necessary corrective action if contamination is detected to prevent post-process contamination. 
  • Educating consumers about safe food preparation 
    Beyond maintaining hygiene and sanitation of their operations, manufacturers also have a responsibility to empower their customers to protect themselves. Manufacturers can update their product labels or release educational content on their websites or social media to educate customers about proper food preparation and hygiene practices they should follow at home. If consumers are properly informed about the dangers of Salmonella and how it’s contracted, this knowledge can help save lives. 

Building Foundations With Food Safety Training 

Ultimately, preventing Salmonella outbreaks requires a thorough understanding of food safety and sanitation as well as dutiful adherence to all protocols and procedures that maintain it. Frontline workers should be well-versed in the principles of HACCP, personnel best practices, sanitation strategies, microbial control, and integrated pest management, to name a few. Choosing the right education partner is crucial to ensuring employees meet their company’s high standards.

For over 100 years, AIB International has supported stakeholders throughout the food and beverage sector in every aspect of risk management and employee training. Help your employees build a solid foundation in food safety with our comprehensive food safety and sanitation courses.

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