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Does cooking kill salmonella?

Thorough cooking can kill salmonella. But when health officials warn people not to eat potentially contaminated food, or when a food is recalled because of salmonella risk, that means don't eat that food, cooked or not, rinsed or not. The stakes are too high.

Besides tomatoes and peppers, what other foods may contain salmonella?

Any raw food of animal origin -- such as meat, poultry, milk and dairy products, eggs, and seafood -- and some fruits and vegetables may carry salmonella bacteria, states the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection web site, adding that salmonella bacteria can contaminate other foods that come in contact with raw meat and poultry. That's why thorough cooking and cleanliness are so important in the kitchen.

What can I do to prevent salmonella infection?

It boils down to food safety. That starts on the farm and goes all the way to your kitchen. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has this advice:

  • Consider using paper towels to clean kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
  • Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in your grocery shopping cart and in your refrigerator.
  • If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Always wash cutting boards, dishes, countertops, and utensils with hot soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
  • Cook foods thoroughly and refrigerate them promptly.
  • Don't thaw foods at room temperature.
  • Use a clean food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat, poultry, casseroles, and other foods.

How does salmonella spread?

Salmonella can pass from human or animal feces to soil, fruits, vegetables, water, or other surfaces. People usually get salmonella by eating contaminated foods. However, salmonella can also spread through contact with pet feces or by handling contaminated pet food.

Reptiles are particularly likely to harbor salmonella bacteria, and chicks and ducklings can carry them too, notes the CDC. The U.S. government bans the sale of small pet turtles because of salmonella risk.

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