Major salmonella outbreaks have occurred throughout the United States more frequently in the past few years. Salmonella food poisoning can lead to severe diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever, and sometimes more serious illnesses or even death. About 40,000 salmonella cases are reported to the CDC, with an estimated 400 deaths. The CDC estimates that the number of actual cases from salmonella outbreaks may be more than 30 times greater, as many mild cases are not reported.
In 2007, a salmonella outbreak that sickened 401 people in 41 states was linked to undercooked, not-ready-to-eat Banquet frozen pot pies. In 2008, a salmonella outbreak was traced to peppers, and the salmonella outbreak may have been connected to tomatoes too. Other prior salmonella outbreaks have been traced to poultry, raw milk, cheese, and pet turtles.
Recent Salmonella Outbreaks
In early 2009, a massive salmonella outbreak linked to peanut products sickened hundreds of people and is suspected to have caused at least nine deaths. As a result, the Peanut Corporation of America issued a peanut butter recall, in one of the largest product recalls and certainly the largest salmonella recall in United States history. Additionally, there have been a number of salmonella sprout recalls as a result of a salmonella outbreak linked to raw alfalfa sprouts. As of May 7, 2009, the sprout salmonella outbreak had sickened a reported 235 people in 14 states.
U.S. Health Officials Seeking to Combat Salmonella Outbreaks
On July 7, 2009, U.S. health officials announced a series of new safety standards designed to combat salmonella outbreaks, E. coli outbreaks, and other outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. The new standards are a result of a panel formed by President Barack Obama to create food safety guidelines for poultry, beef, eggs, and vegetables. Among other guidelines, the new rules will contain new standards for egg and poultry producers geared toward reducing salmonella contamination and increased sampling of ground beef ingredients. The FDA recommendations also set standards for fruit and vegetable growers to combat disease strains and prevent salmonella outbreaks.
Salmonella Outbreak Risks
While most people who become infected with salmonella will typically recover in 4 to 7 days, salmonella symptoms in some people infected may intensify to the point that severe diarrhea can cause dangerous dehydration and require salmonella treatment. If the bacteria spreads from the intestines to the blood stream, it can lead to serious complications and even fatal results.