Updated December 2023

Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause a diarrhea illness called Salmonellosis. It is usually caused by eating food or water contaminated with animal stool (feces).

Anyone can get ill from salmonella when they ingest (swallow) the bacteria. However, infants and the elderly are at a greater risk of suffering from severe dehydration and other complications.

Salmonella is found in the stool (feces) of persons, and animals such as birds and reptiles infected with the bacteria. A person can get infected with salmonella by eating:

  • contaminated meat or meat products
  • contaminated poultry or poultry products
  • raw and undercooked egg products
  • raw milk or milk products
  • contaminated water
  • contaminated raw fruits and vegetables
  • food contaminated by someone ill with Salmonellosis

Pets such as iguanas, tortoises, turtles, terrapins, dogs, cats, and baby poultry may have the bacteria and may be a source of illness if hands are not washed after handling.

A person can spread the bacteria for several days to weeks after being infected. Some people can continue to carry the bacteria for months.

Symptoms usually start 12 to 36 hours after being infected with salmonella but can range from six hours to seven days.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Sudden onset of diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Symptoms usually last for four to seven days and most people recover without treatment. In rare cases, the infection can spread to the blood, other body parts or organs.

Salmonellosis is diagnosed by a lab test to check if you have the bacteria.

If you think you have salmonellosis, or if your symptoms worsen or new symptoms appear, speak with your health care provider.

Keep hands and surfaces clean:

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after preparing food, especially when handling raw poultry, meat and eggs.
  • Hands should be washed after using the toilet, changing a diaper, helping someone who has diarrhea, helping children use the toilet, and after touching pets.
  • Always wash counters, cutting boards, knives, and other utensils with hot soapy water after they come into contact with raw meat, poultry or seafood.

Separate raw food from cooked:

  • Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other food in your grocery cart and bags.
  • Store raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator on a plate so juices don’t drip onto other foods.
  • Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood and another for ready-to-eat foods such as vegetables and fruit.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry and fish (and their juices) away from cooked or ready-to-eat food.

Cook food thoroughly:

  • Salmonella can be killed through cooking, so it is important to cook foods thoroughly.
  • Use a meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked meat and poultry to make sure that the meat is cooked all the way through.

Keep foods cold when not cooking:

  • Keep foods refrigerated at a temperature of 4oC/40oF or below.
  • Never marinate or defrost food at room temperature.
  • Thaw foods in the refrigerator, microwave or under running cold water. If defrosting in the microwave, use a microwave safe container and cook the food immediately after defrosting.
  • Do not leave food items at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.

Other ways to prevent the spread of Salmonella:

  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating them.
  • Do not consume raw (unpasteurized) milk or milk products and/or raw eggs.
  • Cook eggs thoroughly.
  • Avoid eating raw eggs in food items like homemade ice cream, Caesar dressing and eggnog.
  • Avoid using dirty or cracked eggs.
  • In a restaurant, if you are served undercooked meat or poultry send it back for further cooking.
  • If you have symptoms, do not prepare food or pour drinks, attend or work in a child care centre, or provide direct care for hospitalized patients, infants, elderly, or immunocompromised individuals until you don’t have symptoms for at least 24 hours. Do not wash or rinse raw meats as this may contaminate surrounding areas.
  • Talk to your health care provider or Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600