The Risks of Food Pathogens in Fresh Meat Products and How to Avoid Them Listen with ReadSpeaker Our expertise

The Risks of Food Pathogens in Fresh Meat Products and How to Avoid Them

When it comes to grocery shopping, food safety is a top priority for consumers as we all want to make sure that the food we bring home is safe to eat. Therefore, consumers need to be aware of the prevalence of food pathogens in foods when purchasing from supermarkets, understand the potential risks, and how to minimize them.

One of the most common food pathogens found in foods is salmonella, a type of bacteria that can cause serious illness.

Pathogen-Food Pairing and Salmonella Outbreaks

In a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 2009-2015, salmonella in chicken and pork were among the top five pathogen-food category pairs resulting in foodborne disease outbreaks.


Salmonella in eggs, seeded vegetables, and chicken caused the most outbreak-associated illnesses during that period.


However, the true prevalence of salmonella infections may be even higher than reported. More recently, the CDC estimates that salmonella causes over one million foodborne illnesses in the USA every year, with many cases going unreported.

For every confirmed case of salmonella infection, nearly 30 other cases may go unreported since people with symptoms of foodborne illness often do not seek medical attention or have laboratory tests done.

Similarly in Europe, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) showed that salmonella infections went up in 2021. Thirty markets reported 61,236 salmonellosis cases, of which 60,494 were laboratory-confirmed in 2021. This was an increase of 14 percent from 53,163 cases in 2020.

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) 2021

Salmonellosis cases






Hospitalization status was reported for 31,357 cases and 38 percent needed hospital treatment. Cyprus, Greece, and Lithuania had the biggest proportion of hospitalized cases. At least 73 people died in 2021.

The top notification rate was among young children aged 0 to 4. The rate in this group was three times more than in older children and 11 times higher than in adults aged 25 to 64. As in previous years, the three main salmonella types were salmonella enteritidis, typhimurium, and monophasic salmonella typhimurium. Young children and the elderly generally suffer the most severe illnesses.

Out of 45,177 cases with known travel history, 1,591 were travel-associated, the lowest rate ever reported. The highest proportion of travel-related cases was in France, Iceland, Sweden, and Slovenia. Among cases with information on the probable market of infection, Turkey, Spain, and Italy were the most frequent destinations.

Eggs and egg products continue to be the highest-risk foods in outbreaks, but several large incidents were linked to contaminated vegetables, fruits, and sesame seeds. Recent outbreaks have been linked to chicken, ground turkey, ground beef, raw tuna, mushrooms, onions, peaches, papayas, cut fruits, cashew brie, and tahini.

Therefore, it is important to take precautions to prevent Salmonella infections by properly handling and cooking food, washing hands and surfaces, and avoiding cross-contamination.

Chicken is a major source of these illnesses with research showing that one in every 25 packages of chicken at the grocery stores is contaminated with salmonella. You can get sick from contaminated chicken if it is not cooked thoroughly. You can also get sick if its juices leak in the refrigerator or get on kitchen surfaces and then get on something you eat raw, such as salad.


Over 59,000 pounds of frozen chicken have been recalled over concerns of salmonella contamination. The nationwide recall impacts five stuffed, breaded chicken products sold under three brand names, per an announcement from the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). FSIS and the CDC identified six states in their initial report: Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York. Meanwhile, more than three tons of frozen sausages sold at Walmart have been recalled for possible Salmonella contamination.

Following the clean, separate, cook, and chill guidelines is crucial in preventing salmonella infection from food.



  • Wash hands with soap and clean, running water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, especially after touching raw or undercooked eggs, meats, poultry (like chicken and turkey), seafood, or their juices
  • Wash utensils, cutting boards, dishes, and countertops with hot, soapy water, especially after they’ve touched raw or undercooked eggs, meats, poultry, seafood, or their juices
  • Do not wash raw eggs, meats, poultry, or seafood before cooking. Washing can spread germs to other foods, utensils, and surfaces
  • Sanitize kitchen surfaces with a freshly made solution of one tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach in one gallon of water



  • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from other foods in your grocery cart and in your refrigerator. Keep eggs in the original carton and store them in the main part of the refrigerator, not in the door
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods, such as salads and deli meat
  • Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw or undercooked eggs, meats, poultry, seafood, or their juices



  • Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature:
    • 145°F for beef, pork, ham, veal, and lamb (let the meat rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating)
    • 145°F for fish with fins (or cook until flesh is opaque)
    • 160°F for ground beef, ground pork, ground veal, and ground lamb 160°F for egg dishes
    • 165°F for poultry (chicken, turkey, duck), including ground chicken and ground turkey
    • 165°F for casseroles
    • Microwave food to 165°F or above
  • Cook eggs properly. Do not eat raw eggs or eggs that have runny whites or yolks



  • Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or colder
  • Never leave perishable foods out of refrigeration for more than two hours. If the food is exposed to temperatures above 90°F (like a hot car or summer picnic), refrigerate or freeze it within one hour

It is also important to know the symptoms of salmonellosis so you can seek medical attention in time. Most people with a salmonella infection experience diarrhoea (that can be bloody), fever, and stomach cramps. Some people may also have nausea, vomiting, or a headache.


Symptoms usually start within six hours to six days after infection and last between four to seven days. Call the doctor if you have:

  • Diarrhoea and a fever higher than 102°F
  • Diarrhoea for more than three days that is not improving
  • Bloody stools
  • Prolonged vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down
  • Signs of dehydration, such as making very little urine, dry mouth and throat, or dizziness when standing up
Potchara Sungtong

About the author

Potchara Sungtong is the Director, Food and Beverage for DKSH Thailand overseeing the Asia Pacific region. With a background in food science and microbiology, he has over 20 years of experience in research and development, sales and marketing, channel management, and business development in food and beverages. Potchara has extensive knowledge in food safety, customer requirements, laboratory workflows, and lab efficiencies.