Food Poisoning: A Summertime Nightmare
Although food poisoning can be a summertime nightmare, it can be avoided with a few precautions. Just being aware of the circumstances in which healthy food can become contaminated can make the difference between safe and sorry. Although most people recover from food borne illnesses, young children, pregnant women, older people and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk.
Because summer is the time for celebrations, cookouts and parties where a large number of people are being fed, it can be the breeding ground forbacteria which grows faster during the warm weather. While foods like egg or potato salad are often thought of as the culprits, even fresh lettuce or tomatoes can be the source of infections such as E. coli, salmonella, cyclospora and hepatitis A virus.
If you are preparing food for a gathering, there are a few simple steps that can avoid contamination. The most basic one is to wash hands with soap and water thoroughly before handling food, taking a few extra minutes to do a complete job, especially after using the bathroom, being in contact with pet feces or changing a baby’s diaper. To make sure that the hands of young children are clean, use anti-bacterial throw-away tissues before they touch food.
Wash surfaces when preparing food, especially cutting boards, counter tops and utensils
Wash all food, whether organic or not, with cold running water and remove the outer layers of cabbage and lettuce.
Keep raw meat away from where raw vegetables are being prepared.
Fruits should be washed, regardless of whether or not the peel will be eaten.
Keep raw food away from cooked food, especially chicken and meat.
Marinate food in the refrigerator.
Cook food thoroughly.
Refrigerate or freeze food promptly.
Never leave food out for more than one hour when temperature is 90 F and at cooler times, never more than two hours.
If using a cooler, cold foods should be kept at 40 F. Hot foods held in an insulated container should be at least 140 F.
If, in spite of all precautions, if there are flu-like signs such as abdominal cramps, fever, headache, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting within 12 to 72 hours, it may be a food borne illness and a doctor should be contacted.
For More Information about Safe Food Handling and Preparation
USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline
1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854);TTY 1-800-256-7072
FDA’s Food Information Hotline
Fight Foodborne Bacteria