After a number of headline-grabbing outbreaks of food poisoning in 1996 and 1997, the U.S. government revised its safety regulations to help protect the food supply. But experts caution that the government can only do so much—the responsibility for safe consumption of foods lies also with the consumer, since many food-borne illnesses are home-related.
Improper handling, cooking, and storage of foods causes over 6 million cases of food safety food-related illness per year, according to the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. Most of the time, these illnesses are mild—diarrhea and vomiting of short duration. But, more rarely, infection with certain bacteria and parasites can be fatal, especially in persons who already have weak immune systems, such as the elderly, persons undergoing chemotherapy, or persons with AIDS. The symptoms of bloody diarrhea, prolonged vomiting, or dehydration require medical attention in order to prevent complications of food poisoning.
Organisms Most Likely to Make You Sick
|E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria||Meat, milk, unpasteurized apple juice and cider, yogurt, green vegetables, and salami|
|Salmonella bacteria||Raw poultry and meat, unpasteurized milk, and some shellfish|
|Hepatitis A virus||Food and water, especially in underdeveloped countries|
|Cyclospora, an intestinal parasite||Fruits and vegetables and can be transmitted through the water supply.|
The following precautions will help protect you from food-borne illness:
|Storing Food Safely|
|Refrigerate leftovers immediately.||Prepare food safely.|
|Keep raw meat separate from other foods.||Don’t allow meat juices to drip onto refrigerator shelves.|
|Use paper towels to wipe countertops; wash dish rags daily.||Wash cooking surfaces, utensils, and hands after touching raw meat and eggs.|
|Regularly use antibacterial cleanser on counters and in sinks and garbage disposals.||Pour boiling water over pot scrubbers and sponges, or run them through the dishwasher.|
|Keep stored meat refrigerated or frozen.||Wash hands after going to the bathroom.|
Cooking Food Safely
- Cook meat thoroughly.
- Keep hot foods hot.
- When using a microwave, cover foods so that bacteria-killing steam will heat up the food’s surface.
Remember . . . any time you have an emergency, the emergency rooms at the Health Alliance hospitals are ready to help you!
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