What’s with All the Salmonella Recalls?

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Salmonella recalls are down this year. AFP / Saeed KHAN

This year, it seems that romaine lettuce has mercifully taken a break from trying to kill us. (You may recall that large E. coli outbreaks in 2018 and 2019 were traced to romaine lettuce growers in California and Arizona.)

Instead, a long list of products has been recalled lately because of the risk of another type of bacteria -- salmonella. Medical Daily has reported on recent recalls of cinnamon apple chips, onions, shrimp, peaches, and dried fungus (also known as wood ear mushrooms).

Salmonella can cause a type of food poisoning known as salmonellosis. If you’re lucky, eating or drinking something with salmonella won’t typically cause symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, you may develop diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, blood in your stool, chills, headache and abdominal cramps. Most healthy people recover in a few days.

Salmonella is most dangerous in vulnerable populations like the elderly, young children and anyone with a compromised immune system. And it can become life-threatening in any individual if it travels beyond the intestines, or if you become severely dehydrated.

Salmonellosis is the second-leading cause of foodborne illness after norovirus, often called a stomach bug. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that salmonella is responsible for 1.35 million illnesses, 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths in the United States annually.

Recalls This Year

First up, the good news: Despite the recent reports, there have actually been fewer U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalls related to salmonella in food this year (32 recalls), compared to 2019 (42) and 2018 (73). Only three of the recalls – peaches, red onions and wood ear mushrooms -- were related to a widespread outbreak of illness. All three of those outbreaks are believed to be over. Not all recalls happen because someone has actually become sick; they’re ideally preventative, before illness is reported.

Then Why So Many News Reports?

“What you may be noticing is the visibility of the downstream recalls associated with the onions and peaches outbreaks seems greater than usual because there are several retailers who sell the same products and are impacted by the same outbreak,” the FDA responded in a statement to Medical Daily .

“For example, an impacted product may come from one farm but is distributed to multiple retailers. When a retailer recalls this product, it may be in a separate announcement or notice than another retailer, but ultimately it is related to the same singular outbreak event. Another reason for an appearance of a high number of outbreak-related recalls is some outbreaks involve products that are commonly incorporated into new products, which would be handled as a new recall.”

For instance, the onions recalled this August were sold in sacks and cartons at grocery stores. But they were also an ingredient in many prepackaged products, including macaroni salad, chicken salad sandwiches, stir fries, snack trays, breakfast scrambles, cheese dips, salsa and Southwest salads, sold across the US and Canada.

“Because this year’s outbreaks were associated with products with widespread distribution and potential for further manufacturing, it may appear that there is more activity with regard to salmonella recalls, but it’s important to note that these recalls are all related to the same outbreaks,” stated the FDA.

Salmonella Facts

Since the hospital is about the last place you want to be during a pandemic, it’s important to keep abreast of food recalls and to take them seriously. Don’t figure that just because you’ve already eaten part of a bag of recalled food, it’s safe to finish it. Cooking doesn’t always kill the bacteria, either. While you have a much greater chance of getting sick from undercooked or raw food, salmonella can survive the cooking process.

According to the CDC, it can take an average of six hours to six days to show symptoms, and those symptoms normally resolve without treatment in four to seven days. However, after an infection, it can take months for your bowels to return to normal. Watch for food-related recalls at www.foodsafety.gov.

 

Jenna Glatzer ( www.jennaglatzer.com ) is the author or ghostwriter of more than 30 books, recently including Gratitude in Motion: A True Story of Hope, Determination, and the Everyday Heroes Around Us, with Colleen Kelly Alexander.

 

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