Salmonella food poisoning

Salmonellae are the most frequent causes of food poisoning in humans.

Food products posing the greatest risk of Salmonella poisoning:

  • Eggs and products containing raw eggs.
  • Undercooked poultry and handling of the raw meat.
  • Raw red meat and some products intended to be eaten raw.
  • Unpasteurised milk and products thereof.

Cross-contamination of all foodstuffs is possible if Salmonella is present in the environment. Undercooking food or keeping food in a warm environment, increases the risk of infection.

Salmonella infection from poultry products

This is often caused by Salmonella Enteritidis or Salmonella Typhimurium. Other serotypes may be isolated less frequently but are still a cause for concern.

In the 1980's Salmonella Enteritidis became the predominant cause of human Salmonellosis, originating from poultry products. Bäumler et al. (2000) hypothesized that the epidemic of S. Enteritidis infections was triggered by this serotype filling the ecological niche vacated by the avian pathogens S. Pullorum and S. Gallinarum. It seems that the establishment of S. Enteritidis in poultry flocks coincided with the eradication of these avian pathogens. (Bäumler et al., Science, January 2000).

Symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning

Salmonellas cause a mild to severe gastroenteritis.

The clinical course of human Salmonellosis is usually characterized by:

  • acute onset of fever.
  • abdominal pain.
  • diarrhoea.
  • nausea.
  • sometimes vomiting.

Dehydration may be severe. Serious complications occur in a small proportion of cases. Infection can be fatal in immuno-compromised individuals, the elderly or infants. Salmonella may be carried and spread by seemingly healthy individuals for a long time.

Control

The dissemination of S. Enteritidis along the food chain is fairly well understood. Control programmes have been developed to target key areas of poultry meat and egg production.

To reduce the presence of Salmonella in the food chain, legislation has been passed and Codes of Practice enforced in many EU countries.
For more information see Control and Legislation.

Top of page