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How to Protect Your Family From Food Poisoning

Food poisoning cases occur year round, but summer is probably the most dangerous season because warm temperatures provide the perfect environment for the growth of bacteria.

Food poisoning cases occur year round, but summer is probably the most dangerous season because warm temperatures provide the perfect environment for the growth of bacteria. Egg and tuna salad left out on the picnic table all afternoon may turn toxic; grilled hamburgers may not be sufficiently cooked to be safe to eat. Food poisoning is dangerous, especially to children. Because the youngsters’ immune systems are not yet fully developed, they are more susceptible to some bacteria than adults. Also, because kids are smaller, they become dehydrated more quickly than do adults, which means that severe diarrhea poses a much greater danger. In some cases, it can even be fatal.

It’s good to know that proper handling and preparation of food at home can greatly reduce the risk of illness. Two rules endorsed by the FDA will keep your family safe from most forms of food poisoning:

  •  Never allow any perishable food to stand more than two hours at temperatures between 40º F and 140º F. (Those conditions are nearly perfect for the growth of disease-causing bateria.)
  • Never eat raw eggs or undercooked meats.

These are the general rules. There are also other important precautions you need to take with the everyday foods in your family’s diet. For example:

Eggs

Salmonella, a bacterium that causes serious gastrointestinal illness, nausea, and diarrhea, is often found in raw eggs. Always cook eggs until the whites are completely firm and the yolks are starting to thicken. Also avoid eating anything with raw eggs as an ingredient. When baking, never allow your child to sample raw cookie dough or cake batter.

Milk and Milk Products

Although pasteurization kills most bacteria, milk can still be contaminated. Never allow it to stay unrefrigerated even for a couple of hours because bacteria will start to grow and multiply.

In a few instances, soft cheeses such as Brie cheese and Camembert have been contaminated with the listeria bacterium. Usually listeria produces only mild, flu-like symptoms, but since it can be fatal to fetuses, pregnant women should avoid eating these products.

Fruits and Vegetables

It’s rare, but raw fruits and vegetables have been found to be contaminated with bacteria. It is highly recommended that raw fruits and vegetables should be refrigerated once they’ve been cut open. Refrigeration reduces the risk that any contaminants present on the skin or peel will have a chance to multiply. (The more bacteria present, the likelier you are to get sick).

Poultry

Salmonella is found in up to 60 percent of fresh chickens sold in the US. However, “illness is preventable as long as you handle and cook chicken properly,” according to Carl Winter, Ph.D., a food toxicologist.

When cooking poultry or any meat more than two inches thick use a meat thermometer. Place the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat before you cook it, then check the food’s temperature before taking it out. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 180ºF, according to the USDA.

Here are other poultry safety rules:

  • If you’re not going to cook a chicken within one to two days, freeze it.
  • Always thaw chicken in the refrigerator, never at room temperature.
  • Never leave poultry unrefrigerated for more than half an hour. If you’re transporting chicken and it will be left at room temperature for longer, pack it in ice.
  • After cooking and eating chicken, quickly refrigerate leftovers.
  • If you’re taking cooked, carry-out chicken to a picnic, plan to eat it within two hours. Otherwise, take it home first and refrigerate it, then pack it in ice when transporting it. But don’t put hot chicken directly into a refrigerator or ice chest; cooling will not occur rapidly enough, and the growth or organisms may actually accelerate.

Meats

As a general rule, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now recommends that all meats, including hamburger, be cooked to an internal temperature of 160ºF so that all the bacteria are destroyed. When cooking or grilling hamburgers you’ll know they’re done when the juices run clear and there is no pink in the center. Be sure that all leftovers are refrigerated within two hours after the meal.

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Comments (4)

Nice job!!

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Nice article, voted it up!!

Oops I can't vote it up sorry, I'm outa votes for today =(

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