Food poisoning is no joke, and anyone who has experienced the wrath can attest to its severity. Young children, pregnant women, and the elderly risk more severe side effects from food poisoning. If someone you know fits any of those categories and has food poisoning like symptoms, please have them contact a doctor immediately! Below is some information on how we get food poisoning, where we get it, and how we can prevent it!
Common Types of Food Poisoning
Of all the big names in food poisoning, salmonella is one of the most common and well known strains of bacteria. It is usually spread through poultry, eggs, or other raw/undercooked meats. The signs and symptoms of infection include: nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, chills, headache, muscle pain and/or bloody stool. The symptoms will stick around for 4 to 7 days, but your lower intestine may take a few months to fully get back to normal.
Infection from norovirus is highly contagious and is commonly found in highly populated areas such as hospitals, nursing homes, and cruise ships. Luckily most people recover from norovirus in a few days without treatment.
Short for escherichia coli, e. coli is a bacteria commonly found in the gut of healthy mammals, but once it leaves there and gets in our food, trouble ensues. Many strains of e. coli are mostly harmless, but some are more extreme and can cause bloody stool and extreme abdominal pain. E. coli exposure can come from undercooked beef or produce that has come in contact with fecal matter in the process of shipping or packaging. Be warned, young children and the elderly are at risk of developing a kidney disorder called hemolytic uremic syndrome or “HUS” if symptoms are severe enough.
Common Foods and How they Become Tainted
The FDA reports that 140,000 Americans are affected each year by food poisoning from bacteria found in eggs. The risk comes from the tainted shells, usually contaminated by animal waste. It is advised to cook all eggs thoroughly before you eat them. Also, you should always thoroughly wash your hands and every surface that has touched an uncooked, liquid egg.
Not being an animal product, produce is a surprising addition to this list. It turns out that leafy green vegetables are the leading offender of foodborne illness. The fields that the veggies are grown in are often polluted by environmental factors and animal feces. They are known to cause E. Coli, salmonella, and other forms of bacterial infection.
I personally associate fish with being a healthy source of fatty acids and protein, but it’s easy to forget how easily they can be contaminated with food poisoning causing bacteria. When the waters get warmer, fish have a higher possibility of containing the dangerous bacteria, vibrio. Vibrio is the bacteria that causes cholera. Fish have recently been studied to find abnormally high amounts of mercury contamination as well. Be careful when buying fish, and always cook it thoroughly to at least 145 degrees fahrenheit!
While shopping for your groceries there’s to buying fresh, quality goods than just the expiration date. Check the food up and down, and check to see if the packaging is completely intact. If the seal is broken, there’s no telling what could have infiltrated the food itself. If you are cooking for someone with food allergies, be a friend and avoid that ingredient or make two versions of the dish; one containing the questioned ingredient and one without it. Bonus tip: in order to have them out of the cold for the least amount of time while you transport them back to your fridge or freezer, top your cart off with items from the refrigerated and frozen sections last.
Scrub Scrub Scrub!
Thoroughly wash all your produce even if you don’t plan on eating the outside skin or layer. When an unwashed fruit or vegetable is cut, the contaminated surface could breach the skin delivered by the knife to contaminate the flesh. Be sure to sterilize all counter tops, cutting boards, and knives thoroughly to avoid cross contamination. It may seem unnecessary, but it is recommended to wash foods that advertise being pre-washed because the hands that touched it after the wash could be the tainted perpetrator.
Segregate Raw from Cooked Food/Utensils
Use different surfaces and utensils when handling raw and cooked foods to prevent cross contamination. In general, it’s smart to be overly (even annoyingly) attentive to which surfaces and utensils have touched which foods. Also, washing your sink after using it to clean meat is important, as the sink is usually the place in which sponges and other cleaning products are kept. It would be counter productive to clean using a harmful, bacteria ridden sponge!
Cook Everything Thoroughly
There is no worse feeling than biting into an undercooked, raw-centered piece of chicken or pork. That golden-brown, delicious appearance on the outside may be deceiving, so check the temperature internally or cut the meat to visually prove that it is safe to eat. Listed are the proper temperatures (in fahrenheit) that meat should have reached in order to be considered safe to consume: chicken and turkey, 165°; steak, 145°; hamburger meat, 160°; and pork, 145°. Use caution when cooking a steak rare!
When in Doubt, Throw it Out
Even if you’ve followed all of the previous tips, food poisoning can still occur in leftovers.
If you have any doubt that a potential leftover might have gone bad, throw it away. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you’re unsure about the bacterial status of a leftover, a simple and easy-to-remember rule can be incited. Refer to the 2-4 rule with leftovers: don’t leave food out for longer than 2 hours, and don’t eat the leftovers after they’ve been in the fridge for more than 4 days. With its help, you won’t be regretting any midnight snacks anytime soon!
Here at W.T. Johnson, we understand that unexpected food poisoning is the worst feeling, especially if precautions have been made to prevent it. Not all food poisoning cases are as hazy, oftentimes negligent food preparation is the cause for your illness. If this is the case please contact the professionals at W.T. Johnson for your due compensation!