Originally appeared in the article, "Salmonella Outbreak in 17 States Linked to Italian Meats — What to Know," in Healthline on August 30, 2021.
- At least 36 people across 17 states have been affected by a salmonella outbreak between May 9 and July 27.
- People who became sick range in ages from 1 to 91 years old. There have been no reported deaths.
- Symptoms of salmonella include fever, abdominal pain, and usually diarrhea.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a food safety alert on August 26 warning of a multistate salmonella outbreak.
According to the CDC, 36 people across 17 states were affected by the outbreak between May 9 and July 27. People who became sick ranged from 1 to 91 years old, and 12 people were hospitalized. There have been no reported deaths.
The CDC said that interviews with sick people and an analysis of shopper card records showed that most affected people had eaten Fratelli Beretta brand uncured antipasto trays before falling ill.
“Salmonella is a bacteria, first of all,” Dr. Len Horovitz told Healthline.
Horovitz is an internist and pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York and a clinical instructor in medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.
Horovitz explained that the salmonella enterica strain is “the extreme infectious” salmonella species that most often leads to infection. Symptoms can start 1 to 2 weeks after eating contaminated food.
“It usually presents 7 to 14 days after ingestion of these bacteria,” said Horovitz. “Often they [the bacteria] will come in the form of contaminated produce, meat, or poultry, and so large populations that are exposed to this through contamination at a food processing plant or farm – it could reach a lot of people.”
He said the symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, and usually diarrhea, which can be bloody.
“The one certainty is abdominal pain, fever, with enough diarrhea [that] there’s dehydration,” said Horovitz.
The CDC’s investigation has identified Fratelli Beretta brand prepackaged Uncured Antipasto trays as the source of infection. There’s been no determination whether this is the only brand involved.
The CDC said this brand is sold nationwide, comes in vacuum-sealed plastic, and can include uncured salami, prosciutto, coppa, or soppressata with “best buy” dates on or before Feb. 11, 2022.
The CDC emphasized that the true number of people sickened in the outbreaks is likely much higher than the reported, and the outbreaks may not be limited to the states with known illnesses. Many people recover without medical care and aren’t tested for salmonella.
The CDC recommends that you not eat these products and throw them away, even if some of the cold cuts were eaten and no one got sick. They also advise tossing any prepackaged, Italian-style meats you have at home if you’re unable to identify the brand.
They also recommend that you wash items, containers, and surfaces that may have touched these products using hot soapy water or a dishwasher.
“Most healthy people recover within a few days without specific treatment,” said Robin Berlin, a registered dietician nutritionist (RDN).
Still, while salmonella infection isn’t usually life threatening, she cautioned that “in certain people — especially infants and young children, older adults, transplant recipients, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems,” the development of complications can be dangerous.
According to Berlin, the condition is usually treated by replacing fluids and lost electrolytes and using antidiarrheal drugs like Imodium to help relieve cramping and diarrhea.
“If salmonella bacteria have entered your bloodstream, an antibiotic may be prescribed,” she added.
The CDC recommends you call your healthcare professional if you experience severe symptoms of salmonella, which include:
- diarrhea and a fever higher than 102°F
- diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
- bloody diarrhea
- So much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down
“Contamination is usually with fecal matter,” said Horovitz. “From people who are infected or animals that picked this up – so it’s fecal contamination of the produce and meats.”
According to Horovitz, that’s why we see signs in bathrooms saying employees must wash hands before returning to work. He warned that some people could even become carriers of salmonella – who transmit it to others while showing no symptoms themselves.
“You’ve heard of Typhoid Mary, who was a cook who spread typhoid,” he said. “There are some people who can carry salmonella after the infection is over, or they can carry it and spread it, even though they no longer have symptoms. That’s what happened with Typhoid Mary.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a food safety alert for a Fratelli Beretta brand uncured antipasto trays. The CDC recommends people throw away packages of the uncured meats with “best buy” dates on or before Feb. 11, 2022.
The CDC has identified 17 states where the contaminated cold cuts were sold.
Experts say that while the illness is usually mild and typically treated by replacing fluids and lost electrolytes and using antidiarrheal drugs, young children and seniors are at increased risk for severe symptoms.