The CDC wants to warn you about a favorite snack in the fridge

By Julia Ries | Fact-checked by Davi Sherman
Published January 23, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • The CDC issued a public health alert after a Salmonella outbreak affected 47 people across 22 states.

  • Of the 38 cases with available information, 10 individuals were hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported. Both Sam’s Club and Costco have removed the products, urging consumers to discard them due to potential contamination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a public health alert last week regarding a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 47 people across 22 states. The cases have been traced back to two types of pre-packaged charcuterie: Busseto brand Charcuterie Sampler, which was sold at Sam’s Club, and Fratelli Beretta brand Antipasto Gran Beretta, which was sold at Costco. Of the 38 people whose health information was available, ten individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been associated with this outbreak.[][]

Both Sam’s Club and Costco have removed the products from their shelves, and health officials are urging people who bought the charcuterie samplers, which included prosciutto, dry salami, dry coppa, and sweet soppressata, to throw them away, as they may be contaminated.  The CDC also recommends thoroughly washing and sanitizing any surfaces exposed to these products. The CDC continues to investigate the outbreak and expects more people to be infected than what has been reported. It can take up to a month to determine if an infection is associated with the outbreak, according to the CDC.[] 

When people consume foods contaminated with the bacteria, they can develop salmonellosis, which causes diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. While most people will recover smoothly without treatment, some individuals may develop serious health complications that require medical attention. Here’s what to know about the outbreak—and how to best treat a Salmonella infection.

Dry-cured meats, though generally safe, can contain Salmonella 

Salmonella is a bacteria that lives in animal and human intestines. It’s shed through stool. People can get sick if they consume foods or drinks contaminated with the bacteria or if they touch infected animals—or their feces or the environment in which they live. “It can come from meat products, poultry products, raw or undercooked eggs and dough, dairy products, fruits, leafy greens, raw sprouts, fresh vegetables, nut butters, and spreads, [and] pet foods and treats,” Laleh Gharahbaghian, MD, an emergency medicine physician with Stanford Health Care, tells MDLinx. Each year, Salmonella causes an estimated 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the United States, according to the CDC.[][] [][]

Dry-cured meats are considered a safe food since they go through processing, including salting, fermentation, drying, and ripening, that prevent pathogen growth. The use of sodium chloride, for example, prevents the growth of harmful bacteria in salami. Still, it’s possible for dry-cured meat to be contaminated with Salmonella at some point in the manufacturing process. For example, the bacteria can come into contact with the meat in the livestock feed, on factory equipment, or when the meat is being handled, sliced, packaged, or stored. Salmonella flourishes between temperatures of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.[][][]

While Salmonella infections are predominantly caused by raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat, fermented, salt-cured, or dried meat products are known to intermittently cause Salmonella outbreaks. “Salmonella contamination in dried meats like salami and prosciutto is uncommon but possible, often due to improper curing or post-cure contamination,” says Norman Ng, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Staten Island University Hospital.

Most people who get sick with Salmonella will experience diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Symptoms typically begin six hours to six days after infection and can last up to a week. That said, the course of illness can vary: Some individuals develop symptoms weeks after exposure to Salmonella, and the symptoms can persist for weeks. In addition, certain individuals, including older adults, young children, and people who are immunocompromised, have an increased risk of experiencing severe symptoms or serious complications, including sepsis, lung infections, and osteomyelitis. “They should practice strict food hygiene and handwashing and avoid high-risk foods such as raw eggs,” says Dr. Ng.[]

Patients may be unsure about when to seek care for Salmonella infections

Because most Salmonella infections are self-limited, it can be tricky for people to know when to seek medical care. Salmonella infections “usually do not require treatment unless [there is] severe dehydration or [the] patient is in a vulnerable population: elderly, young infant, [or] immunocompromised,” says Dr. Gharahbaghian.

Salmonella is diagnosed via a laboratory test that examines a person’s stool, body tissue, or fluids for the bacteria. The majority of those who get sick with Salmonella won’t need antibiotics; however, they should rest and stay well hydrated since the infection can lead to dehydration. “Antibiotics have not been shown to reduce the duration of symptoms and are not recommended in most people,” says Dr. Ng. That said, antibiotics are advised for people who are at risk, along with those who develop serious symptoms. It’s crucial to talk to a doctor if you have diarrhea and a persistent high fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit; diarrhea that has lasted at least three days and is not improving; bloody diarrhea; prolonged vomiting; or signs of dehydration, including dry mouth and dizziness.[][]

With Salmonella, prevention is key, Dr. Ng says. To avoid getting sick, wash your hands and surfaces often, avoid cross-contamination when preparing food in the kitchen, and cook meat to a safe temperature, he advises. Finally, stay up to date with current Salmonella outbreaks and, when in doubt, avoid any foods that you suspect may be contaminated.[][]

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