Salmonella scare

By Katie Engell
March 26, 2009

Shannon Keough

The salmonella bacteria was recently discovered in two brands of peanut butter. The Minnesota Department of Health released test results showing the bacteria specifically in a five-pound jar of peanut butter.

The distribution of this bacteria could lead to outbreaks and even death. These two brands of peanut butter, King Nut and Parnell Pride, are only sold to food providers in selected states, rather than directly into the hands of consumers. Over 500 people in 43 states have been affected by the bacteria in the peanut products.

“I’ve always been aware of the salmonella outbreak throughout the country but knowing it now could be in one of my favorite foods [peanut butter] does make me think twice about what I’m eating. I know salmonella can be deadly and I of course don’t want to become sick or even die while eating a food I enjoy,” Conor Trainor, junior business major, said.

Salmonella is bacteria that causes severe intestinal infection and can live outside of the human body for up to two weeks. Some symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal pain. While most cases of salmonella are not fatal, anyone can get salmonella. Any case not treated properly can soon progress into a more serious infection. Children, the elderly and those with a weak immune system are most prone to serious cases of salmonella.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Web site states that any raw food of animal origin can contain salmonella. These foods include meat, poultry, milk, eggs, seafood and some fruits and vegetables may contain salmonella bacteria also.

However, salmonella may also spread if other foods come into contact with raw meats or poultry. That’s why it’s necessary to properly clean the kitchen after cooking to avoid spreading the bacteria.

“When it comes to cooking, I know my mom stays updated on what foods could potentially be dangerous to eat and I’m definitely thankful for that. I’ve had food poisoning and I don’t want to go through something remotely like that again,” John Van Wagner, sophomore undecided major, said.

The salmonella scare is influencing people to be more conscious about the products they are buying. The FDA updates their Web site regularly, releasing results of products that could potentially contain the bacteria. The public is being encouraged to stay updated about future products they may need to avoid and the best way to stay safe is to stay informed.

The Peanut Corporation of America also supplies food manufactures of ice cream, cookies and pet foods with peanut products and awareness of the variety of foods that contain the products is limited. Regardless of whether the ingredients are properly labeled, being more conscious of the ingredients found in foods can only help prevent future outbreaks.

“What scares me about the peanut butter outbreak is the fact that I’m not always aware of whether or not peanut butter is in the foods I’m eating. I’m not scared to the point where I’m going to stop eating certain things but it does cross my mind whether bacteria could be in the foods I eat,” Craig Geoke, sophomore political science major, said.

Restaurants often do not disclose all the ingredients in the foods that they serve and those eating out are encouraged to ask what products their particular dish contains.

Another tip for avoiding salmonella is not to order a dish if a chef can’t confidently state the ingredients and whether it contains peanuts. However, many people are allergic to peanuts and restaurants have adjusted their menus to help those with the allergen.

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Katie Engell

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