Protect yourself from food poisoning

Cases of food poisoning, or food-borne illnesses, have been on the rise.

A lot of media attention was on the restaurant chain Chipotle recently because of an outbreak of the potentially deadly bacteria E. coli.

But it seems there is always a story in the news about contaminated foods, food recalls and outbreaks of the most common culprits of food poisoning: E. coli, salmonella, listeria and hepatitis A.

As the health news website Medscape reports:

Contaminated-food recalls in 2015 were on pace to exceed those from 2014, with bacteria discovered in everything from ice cream to spinach. Companies in the United States recalled 3.7 million food items in the first half of 2015 because of viral or bacterial contaminants, such as Listeria and Salmonella, compared with 5.03 million in all of 2014.

While we have to trust that the appropriate government agencies will continue to monitor and improve food safety for the public, many food-borne illness are caused by improperly storing, washing and preparing food at home.

Protect yourself and your kids!

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) not only provides consumer information about outbreaks and recalls, but also has a great page about safe food preparation.

food poisoningTheir “Four Steps to Food Safety” include:

1. CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often
Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food.

2. SEPARATE: Separate raw meats from other foods
Cross-contamination can occur when bacteria are spread from one food product to another. This is especially common when handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. The key is to keep these foods—and their juices—away from ready-to-eat foods.

3. COOK: Cook to the right temperatures
Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause illness.

4. CHILL: Refrigerate foods promptly
Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Do not over-stuff the refrigerator. Cold air must circulate to help keep food safe. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40ºF or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the temperature is consistently 40ºF or below and the freezer temperature is 0ºF or below.

There is much more helpful information on the webpage, so be sure to visit it.

Hepatitis A is a nasty liver infection that is most often spread by the unwashed hands of food handlers. Yuck.

Unlike other food-borne organisms, there is a vaccine to protect you from the hepatitis A virus. Most children are getting this as part of routine childhood vaccinations, but if you haven’t, talk to your health care provider. And it should be covered if you have an ACA-compliant health insurance plan.

Two other good resources for food safety tips and information are the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food Safety News.

Sláinte,

Frugal Nurse

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