Controlling Salmonella in your restaurant

By Linda Jackson on 04 December 2018

Recent  weeks have seen an outbreak of Salmonella in Kwazulu Natal.


We shouldn’t be surprised. Salmonellosis is more common in the summer as the warmer weather and unrefrigerated foods create ideal conditions for Salmonella to grow.


At least this one was reported. Once we know about something we can fix the problem. According to the CDC in the USA, Salmonella causes far more illnesses than you might suspect. For every person with a Salmonella illness confirmed by a laboratory test, there are about 30 more people with Salmonella illnesses that are not reported. Most people who get food poisoning do not go to a doctor or submit a sample to a laboratory, so we never learn what made them sick. By the way Salmonellosis is a reportable illness but that is another story.


Although the eggs got the bad rap in our current outbreak, you can get a Salmonella infection from a large variety of foods based on other recorded outbreaks from around the world. These foods include sprouts and other vegetables, eggs, chicken, pork, fruits, and even processed foods, such as nut butters, frozen pot pies, chicken nuggets, and stuffed chicken entrees. Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal, which is why it is important to know how to prevent infection.


Other outbreaks have been traced back to asymptomatic infected food handlers, turkey meat that was not fully cooked, even laminated menus.


Salmonella can spread from animals to people and from people to people. Always wash your hands after contact with raw meat for this reason. Also after using the bathroom and this is also the reason you do not want a chef with diarrhea working in your kitchen.


Salmonellosis can be serious and is more dangerous for certain people. Anyone can get a Salmonella infection, but some people are more likely to develop a serious illness, including children younger than 5, older adults, and people with immune systems weakened from a medical condition, such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, and cancer or its treatment. Remember you don’t know who you are feeding so rather assume they are vulnerable consumers in all cases and pay attention.


Check out what the NICD  has to say:



What should you be doing to control and prevent Salmonella from spreading?


  • Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly. Partially cooked dishes like Hollandaise sauce, fresh mayonnaise etc must be treated with extra respect.
  • Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry. Sanitise the surfaces too.
  • Ensure colour coded boards and knives are correctly used to prevent cross contamination between raw chicken and cooked foods.
  • Ensure cooked foods are cooled and refrigerated as soon as possible.
  • Monitor staff health very closely



This is an excerpt from a real investigation of a Salmonella outbreak, hopefully is doesn’t sound familiar?

What they(the investigators) found was disturbing. The restaurant’s dishwashing machine was broken and corroded; the tube that fed chlorine into the machine was plugged, preventing proper sanitization of dishes. Employees told the investigators that the machine had not worked properly for at least a week. In fact, according to the inspectors, “[e]mployees had wrapped plastic bags around the line to stop the chlorine from spraying into the air.” Despite the obvious broken condition of the dishwasher, the restaurant management still had done nothing to get the machine “repaired” that is, until caught by the health department.


During their inspection, the investigators also found food not stored at proper temperatures in the cooler. And following questioning of the on-duty manager, investigators learned that three employees, plus another manager, had called in sick that day with flu symptoms.


Investigators discovered thirteen employees who had been allowed to work despite suffering from diarrhea and other symptoms.


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