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Protect yourself from foodborne illness.

Protect Yourself From Foodborne Illness

"I've never become sick from food before - and because I've many more serious things to think about, I don't need to think about food safety in this modern day and age." Are people correct who say this?

Wrong. You should be concerned. This is especially true if you belong to one of the major groups at risk from foodborne illness. Included are senior citizens, individuals with AIDS, cancer or diabetes. Young children and the unborn are also vulnerable. In other words, those with weakened or underdeveloped immune systems are particularly susceptible, according to the Food and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

How do you recognize foodborne illness? Generally, it's characterized by upset stomach, nausea and diarrhea, beginning within a few hours to a day after eating. In its April 1990 booklet, entitled Is Someone You Know at Risk for Foodborne Illness?, USDA advises:

"If you think you might have an illness caused by foodborne bacteria, contact your doctor, because the consequences of foodborne illness can be serious for people with weakened immunity."

All of us, however, would do well to protect ourselves from foodborne illness. For example, USDA advises "Never eat raw meat, poultry or seafood such as steak tartare (a raw hamburger dish), raw oysters or clams."

In this framework, it might surprise many Americans who consume oysters at "raw bars" that such shell fish alone contains a number of harmful organisms, including the particularly deadly bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus. According to Dr. Patricia Griffin at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, mortality rates from this disease can run as high as 50 percent.

In its spring 1990 issue of Food News for Consumers, the USDA advises everyone to follow these guidelines at each step of food handling to guard against foodborne illness:

1. Shopping. Don't buy food in damaged containers. Cans or glass jars with dents. cracks or bulging signs may indicate that the food contains poisioning organisms.

2. Cold storage for perishable food. Refrigerate food as soon as you get home from the store. Your refrigerator should register 40 degrees or lower and the freezer should register zero or lower. Canned goods should be stored in a cool, dry place and used within a year.

3. Thawing. Since bacteria grow quickly at room temperature, food should be thawed in the refrigerator the night before or in the microwave just before cooking.

4. Food preparation: Work areas should be clean and food well-cooked. Hands, utensils, and cutting boards should be washed in hot, soapy water before preparing food.

Use a plastic cutting board instead of a wooden one where bacteria can hide in grooves and multiply.

5. Serving. Never leave food at room temperature more than 2 hours.

6. Leftovers: Small, shallow containers speed cooling. Divide food into small containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Vegetus Publications
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Roosevelt, Edith Kermit
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jun 22, 1990
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