Salmonella is an animal bacteria that lives in the intestines of cows and chickens. It has become prevalent in these animals and can easily spread to humans through live chicken handlers and food handlers. We raise our poultry in close quarters and squalor, injecting them with steroids and antibiotics that weaken their immunities and create resistant bugs. Salmonella can also easily spread to crops from manure and irrigation, so people can then become infected from eating contaminated produce. Peanuts have not been part of previous outbreaks, but the bacteria is spreading to vegetables never before affected.
At this point there are 2 to 4 million cases of salmonella food poisoning every year in the U.S., with close to 1000 deaths.
The current outbreak involves a resistant salmonella that is becoming a growing problem. Peanut Corp of America has not done an effective job - in fact, salmonella was found on the floor of one of its Georgia factories. The bacteria probably got into the peanut butter in the manufacturing process.
More than 125 products have been recalled, including 7 million cases of Kellogg Keebler crackers and Amos cookies, General Mills products, Perry ice cream, NutriSystem granola bars and Pet Smart dog biscuits.
Despite these recalls, the overall risk to the consumer remains statistically quite low. For those who don't want to take even the slightest risk (I can't blame them for this) a listing of the 125 products that have been recalled is available at the FDA website.
How to solve the growing Salmonella problem?* FDA regulations and manpower need to be increased because the problem is very difficult to oversee. The current outbreak is an example: Peanuts grown in Georgia are made into peanut butter in Minnesota and then sold throughout the country * Other techniques that should be considered to protect our peanut crop and other vegetables include radiating vegetables, altering crops genetically to make them resistant to bacteria, and using chlorine dioxide compounds which kill salmonella in the growing and food-handling process.
What should you do if you think you are sick with salmonella poisoning? * Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include nausea, fever, and diarrhea * Dehydration is a primary concern, so keep well-hydrated * Consult with your physician * Antibiotics may be considered if the infection is not resolving
To check out my oped in Newsday this past week on the Salmonella/peanut butter outbreak, click here.
Dr. Marc Siegel is an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. He is a FOX News medical contributor and writes a health column for LA Times, where he examines TV and movies for medical accuracy. Dr. Siegel is the author of "False Alarm: The Truth about the Epidemic of Fear"and "Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic." Read more at www.doctorsiegel.com