When is it a problem for 3,000 people to die each year? When it’s preventable!
Food poisoning is almost completely preventable by following a few rules from the National Institutes of Health and the Partnership for Food Safety Education:
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm soapy water before and after handling food, and after using the restroom.
- Wash fruits and vegetables–using a vegetable brush, if possible. This includes the outside of melons as we can easily introduce disease-causing bacteria as we slice into a watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, or any melon.
- Avoid undercooked seafood, meats, and eggs. For safe cooking temperatures, check with your local University of Wyoming Extension office, or go to the Partnership for Food Safety Education website, www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/mintemp.html.
- Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices away from contaminating other foods.
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Promptly refrigerate foods that can spoil.
- Use only pasteurized dairy foods including pasteurized eggs and egg products. If eggs are NOT pasteurized, they need to be completely cooked, no uncooked eggs. Salmonella can be found even in free range chicken eggs!
- Report suspected foodborne illness to your local health department to help officials identify and stop potential outbreaks (www.foodsafety.gov/report/poisoning/).
Each year, about 1 in 6 Americans get sick from tainted foods. Most foodborne illness arises suddenly and last only a short time. But food poisoning can lead to more serious problems. Foodborne illness kills about 3,000 each year, in the U.S. Infants, older people and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.
The leading cause of food borne disease outbreaks in the U.S., currently, is norovirus, the “cruise-ship disease”. Norovirus is highly contagious, sickening more than 20 million people nationwide each year. Symptoms include severe vomiting and diarrhea. Norovirus is mostly spread where groups of people gather or food is served, including schools, hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers, churches and daycare’s.
Norovirus is passed when a sick food handler contaminates your food, possibly by not washing their hands well enough after touching the virus. Just a small amount of norovirus can make you sick, as this virus multiplies quickly after consumed.
Quick to Multiply
A number of bacteria can also cause food poisoning. Some foods, such as raw meat or fruits and vegetables, Bacteria must be washed off raw fruits and vegetables. Raw meat needs to be cooked to a proper temperature to destroy bacteria. Bacteria can also multiply on foods, given the correct circumstances. Bacteria need food; the correct acidity; time; the correct temperature (usually between 41-140 degrees F); oxygen usually; and moisture to thrive. Some bacteria make you sick immediately, within 1-7 hours. Others may take 12 or more hours to see symptoms.
What To Do
With food poisoning, you usually need to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. If symptoms are severe or long-lasting, see your healthcare professional. A young child, a senior citizen, a pregnant woman or someone with a chronic disease or compromised immune system should also see their healthcare professional.
Use good sense when handling foods to avoid introducing a food borne illness to your family and to yourself. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold; keep your hands, kitchen and equipment clean; and throw hazardous foods out after 3-4 days in the refrigerator. If you are puzzled about whether the food remains safe, throw it out! Don’t take the risk!
September is National Food Safety Education Month but, every day, it’s important to keep our food safe!
- US Institutes on Health, July 2014, newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Jul2014/Feature2
- Partnership for Food Safety Education, foodsafety.gov