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Salmonella: Make Sure it’s NOT on Your Grocery List

Tuesday, February 26 2013

by Daniel Haight, MD, Associate Vice President of Community Health, Lakeland Regional Medical Center
In Polk County last year, there were 226 reported cases of salmonella and 125 cases of camplyobactor.  These germs, like E. coli and others, cause fever, belly pain, and diarrhea that can sometimes be bloody.
But the number of illnesses are much higher because a sick person may not always go to a doctor. Another reason is that sometimes doctors do not order a test on the diarrhea or the tests might miss the cause altogether. 
Since these illnesses are often sporadic, the disease investigators at the health department often cannot find enough clues to determine the source of the infection. 
These germs are of particular interest since they often are found on raw meat and because many of us have started using reusable grocery bags.  Let me explain the correlation and concern.

A recent study at the University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University noticed an increase in illnesses when reusable grocery bags were used more than disposable plastic bags.  In one town that suddenly switched to reusable grocery bags because of a ban on plastic bags, there was an increase in emergency room visits and serious illnesses. Neighboring areas without a ban did not see an increase during the same time period.  Other studies have shown that scientists can find the E. coli germ in the bags repeatedly used for grocery shopping.  Searching the internet will provide you with multiple sources of information on this topic. 

Here are some suggestions: 

  • Make sure the raw meat you buy is wrapped in plastic before being placed in your reusable bag.
  • Buy a different color reusable bag to use only for raw meats and another color for foods you may eat raw (e.g. vegetables, fruits, etc.).
  • Wash all fruit and vegetables before eating.
  • Determine if you can regularly wash your bags that carry raw meat.
  • Remember reusable grocery bags are not for other uses such as carrying gym clothes, books, etc.

If these suggestions make sense, then share or discuss them with others and help prevent more salmonella-related illnesses in our community.

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