Some two-thirds of guests at a wedding in north Alabama ended up with salmonellosis probably caused by the chicken and the green beans, according to a statement from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). Out of 150 guests, a reported 99 got sick, with 22 of them ending up in hospitalized—a toll that has risen dramatically since the outbreak was first reported. By Monday, 18 of the hospitalized guests had been released and were recuperating at home, but five were still hospitalized. The wedding occurred over a week ago.

The investigation is ongoing, but preliminary reports from the ADPH lab identify the culprit as Salmonella enteriditis, which  often contaminates raw chicken. The pathogen’s common presence in raw chicken is the reason cooks are warned always to cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, using a meat thermometer to verify the internal temperature.

The green beans likely carried Salmonella as a result of cross-contamination, underscoring the need to be zealous about safe food-handling procedures. To reduce the chance of illness, foods should be properly refrigerated before cooking, hands should be washed with soap and warm water before handling foods, and surfaces should be cleaned before preparing foods on them.

Safe food-handling practices to follow:

  • Separate cooked foods from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Do not use utensils on cooked foods if you have used the utensil on on raw foods, and do not place cooked foods on plates where raw foods once were unless the plates have been cleaned thoroughly.
  • Cook foods to a safe internal temperature. Use a meat thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to a safe temperature.
  • Chill foods promptly after serving and when transporting from one place to another.

The caterer, Indelible Catering of Moulton, is no longer preparing food for the public. Dr. Scott Harris, assistant state health officer for Public Health Area 2, where the caterer was doing business, said he issued an emergency order to suspend the caterer’s permit last week pending further investigation.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control has reported Salmonella outbreaks linked to contaminated eggs, poultry, meat, unpasteurized milk and juice, cheese, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables (alfalfa sprouts, melons), spices and nuts.