Food Born Illnesses

Be Safe, Not Sorry At Your Summer Picnics

Summer is the time for barbecues and picnics, friends and family, beautiful weather, cold drinks, and of course food!

All kinds of food from chicken, burgers, steaks, and hot dogs to baked beans, corn on the cob, pasta salad, macaroni salad and any other kind of salad you can imagine.

You have a wonderful gathering and everything seemingly goes great except a few bumps and bruises the kids got from playing. However, after you get home you start feeling sick to your stomach. The cramps get worse as time passes. You start to realize that something is extremely wrong.

You decide to go to the emergency room and you tell the nurse what you did today and your symptoms. She immediately has an idea of what the problem is. Tests later confirm that you have the food-borne illness, salmonella.

The doctor explains that the illness was probably caused from one of the foods eaten at the picnic. So, what is a food-borne illness and what causes it to develop?

A food-borne illness is caused when harmful bacteria contaminate foods or beverages. After harmful bacteria come in contact with the food and temperatures are between 90-110 degrees F, they begin to multiply very quickly. When this happens, someone eating the food can get very sick.

Raw foods such as uncooked eggs, meats, poultry, and shellfish are most at risk for developing a food-borne illness, however, vegetables and fruits can also become contaminated. To protect yourself, try to follow these helpful guidelines:

  • Avoid cross contamination by washing hands, utensils, and cutting boards with warm soapy water.
  • Wash all produce. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water to remove all visible dirt and grime. Make sure not to cross-contaminate these foods as well.
  • Make sure that all meats, poultry and shellfish are cooked to internal temperatures of 165 degrees F.
  • Remember; do not put cooked meat back on the same plate that it was on when it was raw.
  • When keeping foods out, try to keep ice under the cooled dishes to preserve its temperature. Hot foods should be kept in insulated coolers, crock-pots or roaster ovens at or above 140 degrees F to ensure they are held at the correct temperatures.
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly (below 40 degrees F). Foods left out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours may not be safe to eat. If above 90 degrees F, food should not be left out over 1 hour. Play it safe; put leftover perishables back on ice once you finish eating so they do not spoil or become unsafe to eat. If you have any doubts, throw it out.
  • Reheat foods to the proper internal temperature (165 degrees F). Foods that are refrigerated can still be contaminated.
  • Discard all food that has not been properly held at the correct temperatures.

Following these tips can greatly reduce your risks of contracting a food-borne illness. However, even with implementing the precautions, it might still be possible that you can get a food-borne illness. Therefore, you need to understand the symptoms involved so you can get checked immediately. Here is a list of symptoms that are associated with a food-borne illness:

• Abdominal cramps
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea (sometimes with blood)
• Fever
• Dehydration

If you have serious symptoms, it is important to consult your physician immediately.

Please use your best judgment and be smart about how your foods are being handled. Be safe this summer and help educate others about the importance of preventing food-borne illnesses.

For more information contact Jersey Shore Hospital’s Nutrition & Dining Services at 398-5142

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