Salmonella Poisoning and working as a Chef

Need a fact check here - She-who-must-be-obeyed has been told that if you contract Salmonella poisoning you are not able to work as a Chef any more.

Surely that would only be for a limited time until you’re not infectious/contagious/a vector of some kind?

Anyone know?

Sounds like chicken feces to me. I’ve had it, all it did was wreak havoc on my digestive system for a couple of weeks. It’s a bacterial infection like any other, so once you’re healthy, you’re healthy.

It’s probably just a joke in the industry, though I see you’re not from the states. Here, anyway (according to my brother, who is a chef), it’s because giving yourself salmonella says that you were not following proper sanitary and cooking techniques in the kitchen. You undercooked something, had cross-contamination, etc. If you give it to yourself, you’re probably feeding unsafe food to the entire restaurant.

It is not meant to imply that salmonella is contagious in any way.

To make a similar analogy, it would be like saying “If a CPA screws up his own tax return, he shouldn’t be a CPA any more.”

Yes, but you can contract salmonella poisoning from eating at a different kitchen. That shouldn’t disqualify you.

I don’t know what the law says on this matter these days (or in your home country), but 100 years ago in the US,Typhoid Mary was forbidden from working as a cook after it was determined that she was a carrier of typhoid (a particular subspecies of salmonella), despite her apparently good health. Her refusal to quit working as a cook led to her being forcibly quarantined for over three decades.

She was suspected of infecting the families she worked for over a period of 15 years.

Might be worth contacting your city’s health department for the straightest dope.

I’ve never heard of this with salmonella infections but I suppose it’s possible someone might become an asymptomatic carrier (like Typhoid Mary, though obviously hers was, well, typhoid).

Sounds to me like someone confused garden variety salmonella with the tale of Typhoid Mary, who was infected with a form of bacteria called Salmonella enterica enterica, serovar Typhi, the organism which causes typhoid fever. It’s not the same salmonella people get from uncooked eggs or raw milk, although it’s in the same family.

Even typhoid, these days, won’t disqualify you from becoming a cook, as long as you promise to wash your hands, take your meds and follow good clean kitchen regulations. Mary’s problem was that she wouldn’t admit she was a carrier and get treatment and kept infecting diners, so eventually they had to kick her out of the kitchen. She was forcibly quarantined twice, finally ending her days as a technician at the quarantine facility.

Could somebody be confusing salmonella with hepatitis-C? Hep-C will get a chef shut down right quick, along with a public announcement (without naming the chef/cook, though) encouraging everybody who has eaten at that particular restaurant to get tested ASAP. And since (I think) hepatitis-C is either incurable, or you remain a carrier even if you get over it, you’re pretty much done in foodservice.

Mister Rik, that would surprise me, as hepatitis C is bloodborne. Hep A is the classic one that can be spread by food, but it’s not a chronic disease.

You can be asymptomatic carrier of Salmonella, but the one that will stop you working with food is being Typhoid carrier.

Right. But if you have typhoid, get treatment and are *not *a carrier, there’s no barrier to working food prep. With proper treatment (7-10 days of antibiotics), only 2-3% of those infected with typhoid become carriers, and most of them will, with long-term antibiotic use, no longer be carriers. Some choose to have their gallbladders removed, which can make them non-carriers sooner.

Typhoid is one of those diseases which was deadly before antibiotics, is still a big deal in third world countries, but is almost always an acute treatable illness with modern medicine in first world countries.

There are also two vaccines which are pretty good at preventing typhoid, if you’re traveling to an area where it’s common or have a family member who gets it.

You’re correct - I mixed up my letters.

Thanks for the responses all. Some googling showed that the Queen’s chef got salmonella poisoning in 2000 on a trip to Mexico, but was still working for her in 2003, so in the UK at least it’s not an issue (unless ERII makes her own rules in her own kitchen :wink: ).

Probably it’s what dracoi said…

In Minnesota if your kitchen has an outbreak of salmonella, each and every employee involved in food or beverage preparation or service will have to provide a stool sample for the Health Department, no one is allowed to return to work in such a capacity until they “poop clean.” Chef might be able to do purely administrative work while recovering from a salmonella infection.

I was just mentioning this thread to my direct boss, the executive chef, and he was baffled. “Salmonella is just food poisoning, not a [communicable] disease!”

Salmonellosis is most certainly a bacterial disease communicable by infected persons. Perhaps Chef should check with your County Public Health Department.

King County Washington

I suspect Master Rik’s boss understands the information in your cite, but does not know the definition of “communicable.” Perhaps that is not the word he used, as Master Rik put it in brackets in his quote. Salmonella is not an airborne bacteria, so some form of cross contamination is needed for an infected worker to pass it along (like not washing his hands after using the bathroom). Of course, since it can be transferred by fecal mater, and an infected person will likely have diarrhea, simple hand washing may not be sufficient anyway.

Right, “communicable” was my word, not his, and I meant it in the “airborne” sense. Perhaps “chronic” would have been a better word choice, in that contracting salmonella doesn’t mean that you’re forever going to be spreading the bacteria to everything you touch.

And yeah, I’ve been at this for 27 years, and the exec. chef several years longer, and we’re quite rigorous about hand-washing and avoiding cross-contamination, because we do indeed understand this stuff. We’re tested on it every 2-3 years when we have to renew our food handler’s permits.

It wasn’t long after I started in the business and learned all this stuff that I looked back on my mom’s food-handling habits when I was a kid, and I developed a strong suspicion that many of those instances of “stomach flu” I had as a kid were actually food poisoning. Though there’s possibly been a side benefit to that: I think it really beefed up my immune system because I haven’t been “sick” with anything worse than a common cold since I was 21 years old. (Caught chicken pox during a brief stint as a shoe salesman, probably from some kid during the back-to-school rush.)

Fair enough, my mistake.

No mistake, you were absolutely correct. Its very important to take the necessary precautions when dealing with food borne illness, but a little extra knowledge goes a long way in preventing ignorant claims such as made by the OP’s friend. Good on you for doing your homework :wink: