Thursday, June 26, 2014

Picnics, Cookouts, Summer Fun & Food Poisoning - Oh No!!

Keep Summertime Fun: Helpful Food Safety Tips - Easy Life Meal & Party Planning  Did you know that foodborne illness occurs more often during the summer?Did you know that foodborne illnesses occurs more often during the summer than any other season?  

Why? Because bacteria multiplies faster when it’s warm and people are cooking and eating outside more, away from the refrigerators, thermometers, and washing facilities of a kitchen.

Why am I writing this? Well l just spent two days extremely sick with all the symptoms of a foodborne illness (also called food poisoning) and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I did or where I could have been exposed. As a former public health official I knew better but all judgment must have left my mind the minute I entered our local Farmer's Market. What possessed me to think that taste testing dips outdoors
and mid morning on a very hot summer day was a good idea?????  Am I positive this is what made me sick? No but after assessing everything I had eaten in the previous 72 hours this was the one thing that was the most likely. This post is a reminder even for those of us who have all the information that we always need to be on high alert! And I hope it is timely since the 4th of July is just around the corner - let's all be prepared! So I am sharing some information and tips:
  • Astonishingly, each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick from food poisoning - 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. 
  • Bacteria, viruses and parasites are the most common cause of food poisoning. 
  • Symptoms of food poisoning include upset stomach, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration. Symptoms may range from mild to severe. Pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems could have more severe symptoms.
If you get food poisoning you can help keep yourself more comfortable and prevent dehydration while you recover, try the following:


  • Let your stomach settle. Stop eating and drinking for a few hours.
  • Try sucking on ice chips or taking small sips of water. You might also try drinking clear soda, such as 7UP or Sprite; clear broths; or noncaffeinated sports drinks, such as Gatorade. 
  • Ease back into eating. Gradually begin to eat bland, easy-to-digest foods, such as soda crackers, toast, gelatin, bananas and rice. Stop eating if your nausea returns.
  • Avoid certain foods and substances until you're feeling better. These include dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and fatty or highly seasoned foods.
  • Get plenty of rest. The illness and dehydration may have made you weak and tired.
  • Don't use anti-diarrheal medications. Drugs intended to treat diarrhea, such as loperamide (Imodium, others) and diphenoxylate with atropine (Lomotil, Lonox), may slow elimination of bacteria or toxins from your system and can make your condition worse.

Prevent Foodborne Illness by taking these steps:

Clean - Wash hands and surfaces frequently
  • Wash hands tfor 20 seconds with soap and running water. Be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Wash surfaces and utensils after each use. Rinsing utensils, counter tops, and cutting boards with water won’t do enough to stop bacteria from spreading. Clean utensils and small cutting boards with hot, soapy water. Clean surfaces and cutting boards with a bleach solution.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables but not meat, poultry, or eggs. Even if you plan to peel fruits and veggies, it’s important to wash them first because bacteria can spread from the outside to the inside as you cut or peel them.
Separate - Don't cross-contaminate
  • Use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils for raw (uncooked) produce and for raw (uncooked) meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
  • Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods while you’re shopping at the grocery store
  • Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods iin the refrigerator
Cook - Cook to the right temperature
  • Use a food thermometer. Make sure food reaches its safe minimum cooking temperature. For example, internal temperatures should be 145°F for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating), 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry. Eggs should be cooked until the yolk is firm.
  • Microwave food thoroughly (to 165 ˚F).
  • During meal times, while food is being served and eaten, keep it hot.
  • After meals are over, refrigerate leftover food quickly.
Chill - Refrigerate promptly
Illness-causing bacteria can grow in many foods within two hours unless you refrigerate them. (During the summer heat, cut that time down to one hour.)
  • Refrigerate the foods that tend to spoil more quickly (like fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, and meats) within two hours. Warm foods will chill faster if they are divided into several clean, shallow containers.
  • Thaw or marinate foods in the refrigerator, never on the counter or in the kitchen sink.
  • Know when to throw food out.

Not all foodborne illnesses occur at home and without expert investigation you can't say with any positivity what caused the illness so it is important that if you think you have a foodborne illness you report it to your local health department because it could be you are part of a foodborne "outbreak" which is an indicator that something needs to be improved in our food safety system. You can be an important part of discovering what foods made you and others sick.

Excellent meat and seafood cooking methods, meat resting requirements, vegetable & fruit cleaning, egg storage and refrigerator freezer storage charts can be found on our blog HERE

References: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Mayo Clinic, FoodSafety.Gov

Authored by +Terri Henkels 

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