Salmonella has struck again with a recent multistate outbreak spanning eleven states, resulting in at least a dozen ill including three requiring hospitalization. The CDC has identified raw flour as the culprit, but are still trying to pinpoint which brand(s). The sources of these victims’ illnesses have been identified as both raw dough and batter, with the only common denominator in these consumed products being raw flour.
Baked/fully cooked flour isn’t an issue, but the problem is that many people consume flour raw by eating cookie dough or batter before cooking it. Although it can be fun to “try a little on your finger” before it goes into the oven and has a chance to cook, this is an inherently dangerous practice. The flour in these uncooked products is raw, which means it hasn’t been treated for bacteria yet (one way to “treat” food is to heat it to a sufficient temperature, as is done with cakes and cookies). Cooking the product eliminates the bacteria, therefore drastically reducing the chance of becoming ill.
This is why it is extremely important that when making these types of foods that consumers follow the instructions for how high the temperature needs to be when cooking, and for how long a product needs to bake. Thee instructions aer both to provide a well-cooked product, but also for safety. These directions are on the packaging to ensure that your food isn’t undercooked, which is a strong contributor to illness.
So what happens when you become ill with Salmonella, and how do you know you are infected?
According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of Salmonella include diarrhea (can be bloody, but not necessarily), fever, and stomach cramps. Most people also suffer from nausea, vomiting, or a headache. For most, treatment from a doctor is not required as the symptoms (in a healthy person) often last for approximately a week or two and then begin to go away on their own. But for some, medical treatment, and even hospitalization, is required. The primary reason being dehydration. Those most likely to require hospitalization include those who are pregnant, the immunocompromised, young children and older adults, and those who suffer from severe health conditions.
In order to get confirmation on your diagnosis, it is important to get a stool culture done. Not only is this important so you can be certain what is was that made you ill, but, as one prominent food poisoning lawyer said: “if you test positive, the medical professionals will notify the health department, and the health department can work to prevent the further spread of the dangerous bacteria, and in so doing prevent others form becoming ill and potentially saving lives.”