The term Salmonella refers to a group or family of bacteria that has been known to cause illness in humans for over 100 years. Salmonella bacteria are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces or foods that have been handled by infected food workers. Thoroughly cooking contaminated foods kills Salmonella. People infected with Salmonella have diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps occurring 12-72 hours after exposure. Illness usually lasts 4-7 days. Most people recover without treatment but serious illness can occur requiring hospitalization and even resulting in death.

The family of Salmonella bacteria is distinguishable by antigenic response. Scientists have identified more than 2500 serotypes of Salmonella. Salmonella serotype typhimurium is the most common serotype in the United States. Salmonella serotype Montevideo is one of the ten most common serotypes, with 19,928 case patients reported to the CDC in the thirty-year period, 1968 to 1998. Outbreaks of Salmonella Montevideo are not uncommon. Outbreaks have occurred in food served by an unlicensed caterer in Virginia (2009), pistachio nuts (2009), barbequed pork (2007 and in fast food roast beef sandwiches (2006).

Here is a sample platter of recent Salmonella Montevideo outbreaks

June 09 Aggie Jennings’ Unlicensed Catering 2009

• Organism: Salmonella Montevideo
• Vehicle: Egg Dishes, Potato Salad Beef, Ground beef Beef, Shredded beef Grains, Pasta Dishes, Noodle salad

Aggie Jennings of rural McLean County catered three events (2 weddings, 1 reunion) in mid-June that led to three separate outbreaks of Salmonella Montevideo. Ms. Jennings’ catering operation was not licensed. Salmonella Montevideo is a strain that is associated with baby chickens, and Ms. Jennings raised chickens. The Salmonella strain matched a strain associated with a chicken hatchery in Iowa. At one catered event, consumption of the potato salad was associated with illness, however no food samples tested positive for salmonella. At another event, ground beef that had been served as taco meat was associated with illness and tested positive for the presence of Salmonella Montevideo. At the third event, shredded beef and noodle salad tested positive for Salmonella.

April 09 Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, Inc., 2009

• Organism: Salmonella Montevideo
• Vehicle: Nuts, Pistachios

Multiple strains of Salmonella bacteria were detected in pistachios (roasted shelled, roasted in-shell, raw) that were sold and subsequently distributed widely throughout the United States. The pistachios were repackaged and sold under many names. The Food and Drug Administration provided the Centers for Disease Control with the genetic fingerprints of the Salmonella strains that had been found in the pistachios. Some of the genetic fingerprints matched Salmonella strains from recently ill persons, but these illness could not be proven to be due to consumption of pistachios. One patient in Connecticut who had been infected with a Salmonella strain with a matching genetic fingerprint reported eating a pistachio-containing product.

January 07 Georgia BBQ Smoked Pork 2007

• Organism: Salmonella Montevideo
• Vehicle: Pork, Smoked

The Statesboro area health department in March identified an outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo. The first cases dated back to January, but only when genetic tests showed all the cases were infected with the same strain of S. Montevideo did an investigation begin in earnest. Investigators performed a case-control study using neighborhood controls. This study showed that those who ate at a local restaurant were 52 times more likely to have been infected. This finding led to an environmental investigation of the restaurant where multiple violations of health codes were noted. The restaurant voluntarily closed to remodel and reassess its policies. It reopened and had no more cases of salmonellosis associated with it.

January 07 Live Poultry Contact 2007

• Organism: Salmonella Montevideo
• Vehicle: Animal Contact

In June, two persons from Minnesota developed Salmonella Montevideo after being in contact with baby chicks that had originated from the same Iowa hatchery. In September, seven additional people became ill in North Dakota with the same strain of Salmonella Montevideo. A subsequent nationwide investigation identified a total of 65 matching Salmonella Montevideo isolates; there was a likely association with exposure to live poultry originating from the same Iowa hatchery. A separate outbreak of a different strain of Salmonella Montevideo occurred throughout 2007. A total of 64 cases were identified. These illnesses were linked to contact with live poultry that originated from hatcheries in New Mexico and Ohio.

August 06 Arby’s Roast Beef Sandwich 2006

• Organism: Salmonella Montevideo
• Vehicle: Sandwiches, Roast Beef

An Arby’s Restaurant in Valdosta, Georgia, was implicated in an outbreak of Salmonella in August. Five cases were reported to the health department, prompting an investigation. A food history questionnaire showed a common exposure to the roast beef sandwich. The restaurant was inspected and found to be using a new meat slicer, which tested positive for the outbreak strain of Salmonella Montevideo.

January 95 Carne Seca or Beef Jerky 1995

• Organism: Salmonella Montevideo
• Vehicle: Beef, Beef Jerky

A locally produced beef jerky, or carne seca, was implicated in an outbreak of Salmonella. Three different serotypes of Salmonella were isolated from the stools of ill persons and from the beef jerky. The processor never measured drying temperatures during production to prevent bacterial growth. In addition, jerky was placed in uncovered plastic tubs for direct sale to the public. Salmonella was not found in the production facility.