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Food Safety - Tips and Information

FOOD SAFETY

THE FACTS

That flu that you had that lasted about two days may not have the flu at all! In fact, most of the time, what is commonly known as the "stomach flu" is actually a mild case of food poisoning and is often identified by its short duration - about 48 hours. The real flu virus hangs around in your system for a week or more.

Approximately 76 million cases of food-borne illnesses are reported to the Center for Disease Control in America each year. And that is just what is reported! Food poisoning accounts for 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths annually. One third of these incidents is caused by the pathogens found in meat and poultry.

SYMPTOMS AND DIAGNOSIS

Below is a description of the most common toxins that cause food poisoning and their accompanying symptoms.

Botulism toxin

Sources: Canned good such as corn, green beans, soups, beets, asparagus, mushrooms, tuna and liver pate.
Onset: Symptoms appear anywhere from 4 -36 hours after eating
Symptoms: Neurotoxic reactions including double vision, speech difficulty, inability to swallow and progressive paralysis of the respiratory system. This serious condition requires immediate medical attention.

Campylobacteriosis

Sources: The bacterium is found on poultry, cattle and sheep and in the milk of animals.
Onset: Generally 2-5 days after eating
Symptoms: Diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramping and bloody stools that usually last for about 7 days.

Listeriosis

Sources: Found in soft cheeses, unpasteurized milk and imported seafood products.
Onset: Generally 48-72 hours after eating
Symptoms: Fever, headache, nausea and vomiting that lasts from 1 to 7 days.

Perfringens Food Poisoning

Sources: Caused by the failure to keep food hot, especially meats and meat-by-products. Meats, gravies and stuffing must be kept above 140 degrees Fahrenheit as bacterial organisms begin to grow between 120 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Onset: Generally 8-12 hours after eating.
Symptoms: Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting that lasts 24-48 hours.

Salmonella Bacteria

Sources: Raw meat, poultry, milk and dairy products.
Onset: Generally 8-12 hours after eating
Symptoms: Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting and that lasts 1 day or less.

Bacillary Dysentry

Sources: Found in milk and dairy products, poultry and potato salad Food is contaminated by the improper handing of liquids or foods by unwashed hands. The bacteria are also transferred through foods that are not thoroughly cooked.
Onset: Generally 1-7 days after eating
Symptoms: Abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, vomiting and blood, pus or mucous in the stool.

PREVENTION

Some forms of food poisoning are unavoidable. For instance, in a restaurant as you have no way of knowing if your food has been cross-contaminated by an employee with unwashed hands. Still, there are steps you can take at home to avoid the most common sources of food poisoning.

* Avoid purchasing canned goods that are dented or damaged, as this could be an indication of the botulism toxin.
* Avoid eating in restaurants that appear dirty or that are cited for health violations.
* Wash your hands in hot soapy water before preparing food and especially after changing diapers, handling pets, personal grooming and using the washroom.
* Wash cutting boards, knives, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after each use
* Cook roasts and steaks to at least at temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
* Cook ground meat and poultry to at least a temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit
* Cook eggs until both the yolk and the egg white are both firm, not runny.
* Cook fish until the flesh is opaque and flakes easily with a fork
* Bring all sauces, soups and gravies to a boil when heating.
* Left-overs should be re-heated to a temperature of at least 160 degrees
* After microwaving foods check to make sure there are no cold spots as bacteria can survive microwave ovens

PREPARATION

Most preventable cases of food poisoning are caused by cross-contamination from raw meat, poultry and seafood. The bacterium spreads from one food to another by hands or through the use of utensils and cutting boards. Food safety experts advise keeping the juices of these foods away from other foods. In fact, many chefs keep two cutting boards on hand, one for meat and one for vegetables to lower the odds of accidental cross contamination.

As most cases of food poisoning come as a surprise, it is also a good idea to keep the telephone number for the nearest medical facility, as well as the local Center for Disease Control in a prominent place in your kitchen.

WHAT TO DO IF THE UNFORTUNATE OCCURS

As most cases of food poisoning are accompanied by an acute case of diarrhea is important to keep your body hydrated with plenty of fluids.

If you suspect you have botulism or if the symptoms last more than one day seek medical attention immediately.

 

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