Choose Chicken Correctly and Pay More Attention to Sanitation / Food Hygiene help the Prevention of Food Poisoning Caused by Salmonella

Updated:2015-04-10 Clicks:20786

Pathogens are our enemies and among them are the Salmonella species. Salmonella causes 1.2 million illnesses in the United States, with 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths every year and in China, it is estimated that over nine million people are infected and approximately 800 people die from Salmonella each year. Most people infected by Salmonella develop gastroenteritis and usually recover after a few days without sequela. Howeverin vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, infants, young children and the immunocompromised and in people weakened by other diseases, infection with salmonella can be much more serious and result in severe illnesses and even death. Therefore, Salmonella is a big threat to public health and should not be ignored.

In order to help the public better understand the hazards of Salmonella and learn about how to protect themselves, the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment held an open day on February 3rd. Senior experts were invited to communicate with journalists from various media regarding Salmonella contamination and other relevant issues.

According to Zhu Jianghui, Deputy Director of Risk Assessment Division I, poultry meat and its products and eggs are regularly contaminated with Salmonella. Based on various research findings worldwide, the contamination rate of Salmonella in retail raw chicken is generally between 10% and 80%. Although most Chinese residents eat cooked chicken, they are still threatened by cross-contamination which happens when, for example, the same cutting board and knife are used for both cooked and raw food preparation. In fact, cross-contamination is recognized as the main reason for foodborne disease caused by Salmonella in China.

Our survey in the year 2011-2013 indicated that approximately40% of retail raw chickens in China were contaminated by Salmonella, which was similar to the levels in other countries. Contamination rate in summer was even higher. It was estimated that about 3 million people were infected by Salmonella from chicken every year, and nearly half of them were associated with cross-contamination of raw chicken.

The Government and industry have developed standards and technical specifications to ensure the safety of raw chicken. For example, the Industrial Standard for Agriculture-Chicken quality grading (NY/T631-2002) specifies that fresh chicken and frozen chicken should be stored at 0~4 and -18 respectively, and the temperature fluctuation in storage should not exceed 1℃ during a day. “Operating procedure of chicken slaughtering” (GB/T 19478-2004) specifies the provisions for the slaughtering process to avoid Salmonella spreading. These measures play an important role in reducing the risk of foodborne disease caused by Salmonella contaminated chicken.

Risk reduction in primary production and in processing can reduce he level of contamination but consumer awareness of kitchen hygiene is also very important for preventing foodborne diseases. In the survey, less than 1/3 of the population used separate cutting boards for the raw and cooked foods, and only half of those who did not separate cutting boards cleaned their cutting boards with detergents. It was estimated that Salmonella infection could be reduced by 2 million each year if the public used separate cutting boards for raw and cooked foods. If people only cleaned their cutting boards with detergents, the number of Salmonella infection could be reduced by an estimated 1.2 million.

Zhu suggested that the chicken slaughtering and processing enterprises and retailers should reduce the cross-contamination of chicken before sales. It was suggested that consumers should purchase frozen chicken and well-packed chicken whenever possible. Meanwhile, it was highly recommended to use separate cutting boards and tools for the raw and cooked foods, keep the kitchen utensils and hands clean, use detergents with sterilization whenever possible and wash hands after handling raw meat and its products.

Picture of Salmonella cross-contamination: the left picture was taken under normal light; the right picture was taken under UV. The Salmonella was marked by fluorescent agent to illustrate how cross-contamination occurred via cutting board, cutting tools and hands. (Pictures was provided by Dr. Cui Shenghui of China National Institutes for Food and Drug Control).