Food Poisoning—What food safety experts won’t eat

November 2016 View more

nmag1116_healthfitness_istock27983544_800pxIf you ever had food poisoning, you know how miserable you can feel, even if you’re a fit and healthy person. Food poisoning can sometimes cause serious illness and even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that every year, one in six people get sick from food poisoning in our country, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of food borne diseases.

Signs and Symptoms

Food poisoning is caused by eating food contaminated by bacteria, such as E. coli, salmonella, or a virus, such as the Norovirus. At first, you might experience abdominal cramps, aching muscles, fever, chills, and an overall loss of energy. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea usually follow. Experts say in most cases, people experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of food poisoning will start feeling better within 24 to 48 hours without medical treatment. But if dehydration occurs, or there is blood visible in the stools, medical care is recommended. The doctor should be called if vomiting and diarrhea are still occurring after 72 hours.

Tracking The Source

Food poisoning can come from fast food chains, full-service restaurants, the grocery store, or even at home. When several people suddenly experience similar symptoms after eating or drinking together, food poisoning may be the culprit.

At-Risk Foods

Food safety experts say there are a few foods that you can wipe out from your diet, just to be safe. Or at least use extreme caution before eating.

Pre-cut or pre-Washed Fruits and Vegetables

These bagged, ready to eat fruits and veggies may save you time in the kitchen, but they may not be worth the health risk. “A higher risk for cross-contamination of many pathogens occurs during handling and processing,” said Alanna Elliott, RD, LDN, Clinical Dietitian, Edward Hospital. “Convenience isn’t worth getting sick. Instead, buy uncut produce and wash or cut it yourself.”

Raw Sprouts

You might think fresh sprouts are a healthy choice to top off your sandwich or salad. But that’s not always the case. “Highly susceptible to bacterial contamination due to the warm, moist conditions in which the seeds sprout. Many cases of E. coli and Salmonella occur from raw sprouts, so if you must eat them, be sure to cook them first,” said Elliott.

Raw Eggs

Raw or undercooked eggs can contain Salmonella bacteria. “Always be sure to cook eggs thoroughly before eating and never eat products that contain raw eggs (e.g. raw cookie dough),” said Elliott.

Unpasteurized or Raw Juices/Milk

Experts remind us that drinking raw juices and raw milk can also raise the risk of food poisoning. “Pasteurization kills bacteria, viruses and parasites (think E. coli, Listeria). Without it, those pathogens can contaminate the juice or milk. There are no added benefits worth the risk of drinking unpasteurized juices/milk.”

Raw Oysters

“Ray oysters can contain Norovirus and Vibrio vulnificus, responsible for nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Opt for cooked oysters instead,” said Elliott.

Tips To Protect Yourself

Always wash your hands with soap and hot water before handling food. Be sure to dry them all the way before handling raw foods. Keep the workspace clean, especially after handling raw meat, fish, and vegetables. Have a supply of dry, clean dish towels within reach. Put your kitchen sponge in the microwave for 30 seconds to refresh it. Throw it out when it smells stale. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw foods and for those that are ready to eat. Keep all raw meats away from food that’s ready to be served such as breads, fruits, cheeses, and side dishes.

Expert suggest that it’s best to store extra food in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as you can. If it’s not eaten within two days, throw it out. Even if it appears fine, don’t eat food if it’s past the “use by” date.