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Why are we seeing so many food recalls? It seems like every time you look online, some government agency is warning us about a food recall.

In order for the public to gain the protection of laws established by agencies such as the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and FDA, thousands of people had to encounter food-borne illnesses, disease, and even death before lawmakers took action. Fast forward to today, and the U.S. still has some of the highest food safety standards in the world, but there have been an alarming number of food recalls in recent years.

Some reasons for recalling food include: Discovery of an organism in a product which may make consumers sick; Discovery of a potential allergen in a product; Mislabeling or misbranding of food. For example, a food may contain an allergen, such as nuts or eggs, but those ingredients do not appear on the label.

Some of our favorite snacks are under a potential salmonella recall. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers and Ritz Crackers have joined the growing list of potentially contaminated items.

The list of foods that may be contaminated with salmonella also include Swiss rolls and Kellogg’s Honey Smacks. According to the USDA, it’s the whey powder in the products that is to blame.

Whey is an ingredient derived from the waste of cheese making. The powder is a very common ingredient it can be used to change the texture of food. Recently days, another company posted a recall and the USDA issues a public health alert because of whey powder used in dessert products and frozen dinners.

But the real culprits are E.coli & Salmonella!

Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not look or smell bad, but it can still cause serious infections. Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled foods and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific lab tests are needed to diagnose and treat Salmonella infections.

Although people of any age can be infected by Salmonella, infants, children, seniors and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness that can result in hospitalization and life-long complications.

We have all heard of E-coli and Salmonella contaminating our food, but have never been too fussed to find out what they actually are. Are they the same thing or are they even similar to each other? Let’s find out!

Salmonella and E.coli are similar in the sense that they are both bacteria, but are in fact completely different types of bacteria. Salmonella is the name of the group of over 2,500 types of bacteria that most commonly causes food poisoning in humans and animals. Salmonella is spread by ingesting foods that are contaminated by salmonella such as raw eggs, raw meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and contaminated water. Contamination takes place when these foods come into contact with animal or human feces and are not cooked properly. Symptoms of Salmonella are diarrhea, vomiting, fever, cramps, headache, and last around 4-7 days. Symptoms can get more serious in infants and the elderly but overall will go away by themselves. In some people it takes two weeks for symptoms to develop.

E-coli is the name of the bacteria that lives in the intestines without (Most of the times) causing any problems. However, several strains of E-coli can cause food poisoning and result in serious issues where bleeding and hemorrhaging occurs. You can get E-coli by eating foods that have been improperly processed or harvested that may have come into contact with animal or human feces. The most common symptom of E-coli is recognized by symptoms which involve a bloody stool, which should be taken to immediate hospital care.

Salmonella and E-coli outbreaks are both rooted by the contamination of feces, but are different bacteria that pose different risks.

The best way to avoid any infection from E-coli and Salmonella is to maintain hygiene. Always thoroughly wash your vegetables and fruits as they may have come into contact with dirt which may have been contaminated by feces. In fact, E-coli and Salmonella can be passed by a simple shake of a hand from someone who has hasn’t washed their hands after relieving their bowel. Thus, always wash your hands before eating.

Secondly, it is always important to cook your meat thoroughly, especially chicken. Those who crave their meat nice and rare, pose a risk to catching one of these infections. Lastly, it is important to maintain clean drinking water in your household so that your family does not consume E-coli or Salmonella from your water source.

Now that you have educated yourself on the differences, it is most important to keep yourself healthy and free from these bacteria.

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one. Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!

The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. 

Glenn Ellis, is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist. He is the author of Which Doctor?, and Information is the Best Medicine. A health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, nationally and internationally on health related topics, Ellis is an active media contributor on Health Equity and Medical Ethics.

 

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