Errors in proper food handling, hand-washing and food-safety training were cited as the cause of two serotype Salmonella outbreaks in Arkansas prisons in August of 2012, according a study released in last week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report  (MMWR).

597 inmates at the Arkansas prisons were inflected with eight variations of Salmonella during the outbreak, investigators from the Arkansas Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

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The eight strains exposed 15 pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns of the bacterium; this finding exceeds all previous reports for multiple-serotype outbreaks of Salmonella in prisons.

Chicken salad and other food items were found to be the cause of the Salmonella outbreak, revealed by case-control studies conducted at the prisons. While Prison A was likely infected by the chicken salad, Prison B’s outbreak was thought to be caused by person-to-person transmission, and multiple food items.

The chicken salad served at both prisons used eggs produced at Prison B. Improper food handling produces including leaving the chicken salad out at an unsafe temperature is thought to have contributed to the Salmonella outbreak. MMRW editors advised that before returning to kitchen work proper food safety training should be given to inmates.

The editors went on to state “Sanitarians should regularly inspect prison kitchens, cafeterias, and agricultural facilities, and require them to maintain standards equivalent to those of commercial establishments in accordance with state or local guidelines. Health departments might consider enhancing collaborative surveillance with prison staff to improve control of foodborne outbreaks in prisons.”