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Don’t be a turkey this Christmas – avoid Salmonella food poisoning

It seems Salmonella food poisoning is no respecter of persons. All-American lifestyle diva Martha Stewart recently hit the headlines after falling foul (or should that be fowl!) of the virus after handling turkeys. She said “I never get sick, but I came down with Salmonella. I think I caught it because I was handling do many turkeys around Thanksgiving.”

Salmonella, bacteria found in the gut of farm animals and poultry, is named after American veterinary pathologist Daniel Elmer Salmon and is most commonly transferred to humans through undercooked meat. The bacteria can survive for weeks outside a living body and is not destroyed by freezing.

If you’re unlucky enough to contract Salmonella, you’ll certainly know about it – symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. More severe cases may include fever and vomiting. In most cases symptoms normally clear up on their own within a week, but if you don’t fancy spending the festive period hovering close to a WC, you need to be sure that you take special care when preparing and cooking food.

Can you catch Salmonella food poisoning from salmon?

The answer to this is, yes you can. In fact in October this year around 300 people in the Netherlands and the USA were ill with food poisoning after consuming Dutch smoked salmon which had become tainted with Salmonella.


As we all remember from the Edwina Currie egg scaremongering in the 1980s, eggs are a potential source of Salmonella. This is, of course, very rare and really only applies to raw or undercooked eggs. Few people would gulp down a raw egg on its own, but there are certain food items which contain raw eggs, such as mayonnaise and other salad dressings, Hollandaise sauce, chocolate mousse etc.

Meat and Poultry

To avoid Salmonella poisoning you need to make sure that meat, whether it’s turkey, chicken, pork, beef, lamb, venison, duck, goose or whatever else is gracing your table, is cooked properly. This means cooked all the way through (no pink bits) with poultry juices running clear. If you’re reheating, you need to make sure that the food is piping hot before serving and never reheat more than once.

Raw fruit and vegetables

Whilst Salmonella is most commonly associated with poultry, meat, eggs and unpasteurised dairy products, even vegans can catch salmonella via fruit and vegetables. This is because they could have been prepared on a board or with utensils used for preparing raw meat, or because they have not been washed properly, o r even because the person preparing them has not washed their hands after handling raw meat.

Keeping raw and cooked foods separate and washing hands, utensils and surfaces thoroughly should help to keep the bacteria causing food poisoning at bay and let you enjoy the festivities.

For more information about basic food safety, why not check out our Level 2 Food Safety online course? It gives you the information you require to stay safe this Christmas and whenever you prepare food.

For those needing a more in-depth knowledge of Food Safety, try our Level 3 Food Safety available online or here in Skipton, or Level 4 Food Safety, suitable for managers, and next running 4 – 8 March 2013 (LIMITED PLACES ALREADY!).