May 24, 2004
"The sunny days of
summer bring hot temperatures and outdoor gatherings. It's also
a time of increased risk of food poisoning. While most Americans
realize that May through September poses the biggest threat of foodborne
illness, a survey conducted by the American Dietetic Association
and the ConAgra Foundation shows that consumers are not practicing
correct outdoor food safety procedures."
"Food poisoning is
the result of eating organisms or toxins in contaminated food. Most
cases of food poisoning are from common bacteria like Staphylococcus
or E. coli.... Food poisoning tends to occur at picnics, school
cafeterias, and large social functions. These are situations where
food may be left unrefrigerated too long or food preparation techniques
are not clean. Food poisoning often occurs from undercooked meats
or dairy products (like mayonnaise mixed in coleslaw or potato salad)
that have sat out too long...."
What can you do to avoid
"Keep Raw Meats and
Ready-to-Eat Foods Separate
* Bring extra plates - one for handling raw foods and another for
cooked foods to prevent cross-contamination.
* Marinate foods in the refrigerator. Don't reuse marinade used
on raw meat or poultry unless boiled.
"Cook to Proper Temperatures
* Cook your favorite foods to the right temperature by using a meat
thermometer; hamburger to at least 160° F and chicken breasts
to 170° F.
* Never partially grill meat or poultry to finish cooking later.
below 40° F
* Pack food in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice or icepacks
to keep temperature below 40° F.
* Transport the cooler in the back seat of your air-conditioned
car instead of in your hot trunk.
* Remove from the cooler only the amount of raw meat that will fit
on the grill.
* Defrost meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator before taking
them to the grill.
* Don't leave food outside in hot weather (90° F or above) for
more than one hour."
Even if you are not preparing
(or eating) the meat, there is still a need to be careful. Avoid
using the same cutting board for both meats and vegetables to avoid
cross-contamination. Vegetables are often eaten raw, or not cooked
to the same temperatures as meats; this decreases the likelihood
that the germs will be killed during the cooking process.
"Wash Fresh Fruits
* Nearly all types of fruits and vegetables have been implicated
in food-borne illnesses.
* All fruits and vegetables should be washed with running water
before cooking and/or serving.
* Use a vegetable brush and running water (no soap) to clean the
outside of melons. Bacteria and other pathogens can be transferred
to the inside of the fruit or vegetable by cutting through it.
* Cut melons, fruits and vegetables should be kept cold. When served
outdoors, consider placing the serving dish on ice or immediately
store in an ice chest after serving."
What if you are not preparing
the food? If you or someone you know is eating it, you still need
to be aware.
The symptoms from the most
common types of food poisoning generally start within 2 to 6 hours
of eating the food responsible. That time may be longer (even a
number of days) or shorter, depending on the toxin or organism responsible
for the food poisoning...."
"Known pathogens account
for an estimated 14 million illnesses, 60,000 hospitalizations,
and 1,800 deaths. Three pathogens, Salmonella, Listeria, and Toxoplasma,
are responsible for 1,500 deaths each year, more than 75% of those
caused by known pathogens, while unknown agents account for the
remaining 62 million illnesses, 265,000 hospitalizations, and 3,200
So, what happens if someone
does get sick?
"The type of treatment
you'll get for food poisoning will depend on the specific germ that
is making you sick. The doctor might give you medicine, but most
of the time people who have food poisoning don't need to take medicine.
It's also rare that a kid with food poisoning would need to go to
the hospital. Usually, only people who get really dehydrated (lose
too many fluids from their bodies because of vomiting or diarrhea)
have to go to the hospital. There they will probably get IVs, or
intravenous (say: in-trah-vee-nus) lines, of fluid and medicine."
So, what can you do?
Questions of the Week:
When packing a lunch, what foods would be safe to bring out on a
hot (or even just a warm) day? What foods should be kept cold? Is
an icepack in your lunch bag going to be enough? What about when
going to a picnic? What foods make better choices to bring outside
for the day (or even just a couple hours)? What foods should you
avoid after they have been out for a while? Finally, if you or someone
you know does get sick, what should you do?
*Please note: The Question
of the Week will not be sent next week in observance of the Memorial
Day holiday. It
will return the following week and continue throughout the summer.*
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum