Salmonella Can Live In This Children’s Snack Food For Up To Six Months

Salmonella can be a dangerous pathogen, and new research shows that it can survive for at least six months in surprising foods that are regularly served to children. Dry cookies and crackers, not commonly associated with foodborne illnesses, can actually carry salmonella for up to six months. Salmonella infection usually doesn’t require treatment and most people feel better after four-to-seven days once they have acquired this foodborne illness, but it can be deadly. Salmonella is a diarrhea-causing bacteria that can even cause fever and abdominal cramps. The worst symptoms usually occur 12-72 hours after infection.

New research published in the Journal of Food Protection indicates that it’s not just canned goods and under-cooked meats that can be a problem, even dry good like cookies and crackers can carry salmonella. Elderly people, babies, and people with impaired immune systems are most likely to be the most seriously affected by salmonella infections. Usually foods that are animal-based like poultry, milk, fish, and beef are the most prone to salmonella contamination. Sometimes even vegetables and fruits have been known to cause salmonella infections. Approximately 380 Americans die every year from salmonella poisoning and around 19,000 hospitalizations each year can be blamed on this dangerous bacteria.

Unfortunately, like many contaminates that cause foodborne illnesses, foods contaminated with salmonella often look and smell completely normal. After an increase in foodborne diseases began popping up, researchers from the University of Georgia decided to look into dry foods as a possible source of salmonella poisoning.

Larry Beuchat, of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, led the team of researchers, and admittedly, they did not expect dry foods to be able to support salmonella growth, according to a press release.

“There have been an increased number of outbreaks of diseases associated with consumption of contaminated dry foods. We wouldn’t expect salmonella to grow in foods that have a very dry environment,” said Beuchat.

The researchers, using five different serotypes of salmonella, deliberately contaminated four types of fillings found in cookies or crackers. According to Medical News Today, the researchers used cracker sandwiches filled with cheese and peanut butter and cookies with chocolate and vanilla filling to test out how long salmonella could survive in the dry foods that you find at grocery stores, in vending machines, or even on holiday snack tables.

“Inactivation of Salmonella was more rapid in wet-inoculated peanut butter crème cookie filling than in dry-inoculated filling but was less affected by type of inoculum in peanut butter-based cracker filling.”

The researchers were very surprised that the salmonella was able to survive in the cookies at all, and even more surprised that it survived for up to six months. Beuchat said, “That was not expected.”

“The salmonella didn’t survive as well in the cracker sandwiches as it did in the cookie sandwiches,” Beuchat said.

“The ability of Salmonella to survive for at least 182 days in fillings of cookie and cracker sandwiches demonstrates a need to assure that filling ingredients do not contain the pathogen and that contamination does not occur during manufacture,” the authors wrote.

“The next steps would be to test all ingredients that are used in these foods,” Beuchat said. The authors suggest that if foodborne pathogens are more often present in specific ingredients, then we should stop using those ingredients, because salmonella is becoming more serious as antibiotics become less effective.

[Image via Pixabay]