(WTVM) - Eight cases of salmonella poisoning were confirmed earlier this month in Athens, Ala. after more than 80 people complained of having symptoms of the bacteria.
"Salmonella is a bacterium that is found in any kind of warm-blooded animal, even cold-blooded animals, turtles, bugs, all kinds of things," explains Dr. Jean Weese, Auburn University Food Expert. "So if the poultry eats a bug they can get the bacteria."
Weese says people should take proactive steps to protect themselves from exposure to salmonella.
There are several ways to reduce the risk, starting with clean surfaces and adequate heating of raw products.
"However, if you take that chicken or raw piece of meat and put it on your counter then don't clean up well after, the cross contamination can get into your produce, your fruits, your hands and that can become an issue," says Dr. Weese.
Lessie Smith, employee of the Opelika Farmers Market on 10th Street, says food safety is top priority at their business and is one of the reasons they are so successful.
"We bring it out every morning, we run it every day," Smith said. "We don't let any bad produce get out here. We are just very diligent."
They inspect the product every morning and keep their produce locked in a temperature controlled cooler at night.
"Wash it because you don't know who has handled it prior to you, so wash it really good. If it needs refrigerating, then refrigerate it and just take precautions," explains Smith.
Symptoms of salmonella typically last four to seven days and most people recover without treatment.
However, the bacteria can cause serious illness among older adults, infants and people with chronic diseases.
"We do have a lot of acid in our stomachs that will deal with that salmonella, but if you get a large amount, you will get sick. Usually it doesn't result in death although it can," says Dr. Weese, "Again, it usually with those who are immune compromised that we will see those deaths."