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The Lake News Online
  • Nutrition tip of the week: Preventing food poisoning

  • Food poisoning is a common problem that affects millions of people. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foodborne ailments result in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,200 deaths nationwide each year. Food poisoning, or foodborne illness, is commonly caused by eating foods contaminated by infectious bacteria, viruses or parasites or their toxins.
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  • Food poisoning is a common problem that affects millions of people. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foodborne ailments result in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,200 deaths nationwide each year. Food poisoning, or foodborne illness, is commonly caused by eating foods contaminated by infectious bacteria, viruses or parasites or their toxins.
    Food poisoning symptoms and timing vary with the source of contamination. People infected with these organisms may have symptoms ranging from mild intestinal discomfort to severe dehydration and bloody diarrhea. Signs and symptoms may start within hours of eating the contaminated food or they may begin days, or even weeks, later. Sickness may last from less than a day to 10 or more days.
    Most types of food poisoning are mild and will resolve without treatment. Symptoms usually include one or more of the following: nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps, or fever. You should seek medical attention if you experience any of these more severe symptoms: frequent episodes of vomiting that interfere with you ability to keep liquids down, vomiting blood, severe diarrhea for more than three days, blood in your stools, extreme pain, temperature higher than 101.5, signs or symptoms of dehydration (little or no urination, severe weakness, dizziness, dry mouth), difficulty speaking, trouble swallowing, double vision or muscle weakness.
    Food contamination can happen at any point during its production: growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping, preparing or serving. Whether you become ill from eating contaminated food depends on the organism, how much exposure you had, your age and overall health. Older adults, pregnant women, infants and young children, and people with chronic diseases are especially susceptible to food poisoning because of weakened immune systems. Taking some simple precautions can help you avoid food poisoning.
    Make sure food from animal sources is cooked thoroughly or pasteurized. Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the food. Cooking food can kill many harmful organisms.
    Avoid eating raw meat or eggs.
    Don’t let juices or drippings from raw meat, poultry, shellfish or eggs contaminate other foods.
    Do not leave eggs, meats, poultry, seafood or milk at room temperature for extended periods of time.
    Promptly refrigerate or freeze perishables after grocery shopping. Harmful bacteria can multiply rapidly so the goal is to have these foods at room temperature for no longer than two hours. This includes time in the grocery cart and car.
    Refrigerate leftovers promptly and reheat thoroughly before you eat them.
    Wash your hands, cutting boards and knives with hot, soapy water before and after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.
    Avoid unpasteurized milk and juices, such as fresh apple cider. (Juices sold at room temperature or in frozen concentrates have been pasteurized; although the label may not specifically say so.)
    Page 2 of 2 - Do not thaw food at room temperature.
    Wash raw vegetables and fruit in water before eating, especially those that will be eaten raw. Scrub the outside of melons before cutting into them and potatoes and carrots before peeling. Avoid sprouts because these are often contaminated.
    If you are ill with diarrhea or vomiting, do not prepare food for others.
    Wash hands with soap after handling pets, especially reptiles, turtles or birds, and after handling pet food.
    Buy from retailers who keep a clean store and practice good food handling procedures.
    When shopping, keep raw meats, poultry and seafood separate from other foods in your cart-especially produce. Put these products in separate plastic bags.
    Inspect your cans and jars. Don’t buy or use food in bulging or dented cans or in jars that are cracked or have loose or bulging lids.
    Avoid buying frozen food if the packaging is damaged or has significant frost or ice crystals. This could mean that the product has either been there a long time or that it has been thawed and refrozen.
    When in doubt, throw it out. If you are not sure how long a food has been at room temperature, how long it has been in the fridge, or if it was safely prepared, it’s better to be safe than sorry and just get rid of it. It’s important to remember that food can be contaminated and still look, smell and even taste just fine.
     
    Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the cardiac rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo.
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