Raw poultry and meat are still the biggest culprits in the thousands of salmonella infections annually, but inspectors are finding more outbreaks blamed on contaminated produce and dry goods.
A farmer in Kent recalled alfalfa sprouts sold to food institutions in Washington and Oregon because of their recent link to 12 cases of salmonellosis. A grower in California recalled 13 million pounds of raw almonds because of outbreaks in Western states. Lettuce, orange juice, cheese and melon are other foods that have been found in the past year to cause salmonella infections.
Janet Anderberg, with the food safety program at the state Department of Health, said accidentally ingesting salmonella is fairly easy. One big cause of infection is melon, particularly cantaloupe.
"Imagine what a cantaloupe looks like," Anderberg said. The rough rind can trap dirt and "other stuff" in its crevices. Now, how do you eat cantaloupe? You take a big knife and slice through down the middle," Anderberg said. "When you do that, you drag everything from the skin down over the smooth, sweet, juicy part."
Another way to spread the bacteria is at the grocery store. Not only can salmonella spread in the juices that drip from packages of raw meat, but because the bacteria can survive for weeks, salmonella could be on the shopping cart.
But a lot of risk can be avoided by exercising good hygiene.
"When you’re handling food, wash your hands," Anderberg said. "Don’t just rinse them off, wash them, scrub them."