All the food preparation and consumption during the holidays unfortunately make a perfect opportunity for food poisoning if we’re not careful. In today’s installment of KERA’s Vital Signs, dietitian Emily Hein of the Heart Hospital Baylor Plano shares tips for food safety, beginning with one of the major sources of foodborne illness – cross contamination.
Recommendations for food safety:
- Wash your hands, utensils and food surfaces often. Wash your hands well with warm, soapy water before and after handling or preparing food. Use hot, soapy water to wash the utensils, cutting board and other surfaces you use.
- Keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods. When shopping, preparing food or storing food, keep raw meat, poultry, fish and shellfish away from other foods. This prevents cross-contamination.
- Cook foods to a safe temperature. The best way to tell if foods are cooked to a safe temperature is to use a food thermometer. You can kill harmful organisms in most foods by cooking them to the right temperature. Ground beef should be cooked to 160 F (71.1 C), while steaks and roasts should be cooked to at least 145 F (62.8 C). Pork needs to be cooked to at least 160 F (71.1C), and chicken and turkey need to be cooked to 165 F (73.9 C). Fish is generally well-cooked at 145 F (62.8 C).
- Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly. Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods within two hours of purchasing or preparing them. If the room temperature is above 90 F (32.2 C), refrigerate perishable foods within one hour.
- Defrost food safely. Do not thaw foods at room temperature. The safest way to thaw foods is to defrost foods in the refrigerator or to microwave the food using the “defrost” or “50 percent power” setting. Running cold water over the food also safely thaws the food.
- Throw it out when in doubt. If you aren’t sure if a food has been prepared, served or stored safely, discard it. Food left at room temperature too long may contain bacteria or toxins that can’t be destroyed by cooking. Don’t taste food that you’re unsure about — just throw it out. Even if it looks and smells fine, it may not be safe to eat.
Information About Food Poisoning:
What causes food poisoning?
Dr. Joe Young, Assistant Director of the Emergency Department, Baylor Medical Center of Carrollton says most food-borne illnesses are caused by eating food containing certain types of bacteria or viruses. After a person has eaten these foods, the microorganisms continue to grow in the digestive tract, causing an infection. Foods can also cause illness if they contain a toxin or poison produced by bacteria growing in food. There is not a specific time of year when food poisoning outbreaks are more likely to occur. However, it most commonly happens after eating at picnics, school cafeterias, restaurants, or large social functions.
What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
Most cases of food poisoning mimic gastroenteritis, and many people with mild cases of food poisoning think they have the “stomach flu.” However, the onset of symptoms is usually very sudden and abrupt, often within hours of eating the contaminated food. The following are the most common symptoms of food poisoning. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Watery and/or bloody diarrhea
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal distention and gas
The symptoms of food poisoning may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
Treatment for food poisoning
Most mild cases of food poisoning are often treated as gastroenteritis, with fluid replacement and control of nausea and vomiting being the primary focus. Antibiotics may actually make the situation worse. However, in serious cases of food poisoning, hospitalization may be necessary. Be sure to see your doctor if you’re unable to keep even fluids down or your symptoms are persistent.