Food Poisoning-How To Avoid Being A Victim

asian-1239272_1920Food makes the holidays more festive. At this time of year you enjoy family dinners, church potlucks, office parties, buffet lunches, cookie exchanges, and cups of cheer. Gifts are exchanged, too, and food poisoning is the “gift” you don’t want.

Though it’s relatively rare in the US, food poisoning can happen to anyone, according to MedlinePlus. That doesn’t mean much if you’re the one who gets it. You may get food poisoning at home or while traveling. Each year 60-80 million (that’s MILLION) people around the globe get food poisoning.

If you’ve had food poisoning you know it’s awful, so awful you thought you were going to die. Some people do die. The FDA says food poisoning is especially threatening to kids five years old and younger, and the elderly. E.coli can cause hemolyptic uremic syndrome, which can lead to kidney damage and, in some cases, death.

The symptoms of food poisoning are nasty: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headaches, and weakness. Food poisoning strikes within two-to-four hours after eating contaminated food and it can last as long as 10 days. Prevetion is the best defense against food poisoning.

Mayo Clinic, in an Internet article called “Serve it Up Safe: 8 Ways to Prevent Food-Bourne Illness,” lists some prevention tips, such as washing linens often and washing equipment, including your meat thermometer, in hot, soapy water. To be in the safe side, the article says you should reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Practice safe food handling during the holidays. Unsure about what to do? The USDA Food and Safety Inspection Service has published a colorful booklet called “Cooking for Groups.” You’ll find the booklet on www.FoodSafety.gov. You’ll find additional information on www.fightingbac.org. And follow these tips to keep your tummy safe during the holidays.

AT HOME

1. Wash your hands well before handling food.

2. Use paper or cloth dishcloths, not sponges.

4. Separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods.

5. Store washed produce in a different container, not the original.

6. Keep cold foods at 40 degrees or less.

7. Keep hot foods at 140 degrees or more.

8. Double-bag leaking meat and poultry packages or seal them in plastic wrap.

9. Thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

10. NEVER eat frozen meat, poultry or fish that has been thawed and refrozen.

11. Check internal temperature of meat and poultry with a thermometer.

12. Use a clean spoon every time you taste food.

13. Clear leftover food quickly and refrigerate.

AT WORK

1. Ask a knowledgable person to be in charge.

2. Refrigerate donated food immediately.

3. Wash hands before handling food. (Buy several bottles of hand sanitizer.)

4. Label foods so people know what they’re eating.

5. Tell people if food contains nuts or soy.

6. Serve food in small batches, not all at once.

7. Keep mayonnaise-based foods icy cold.

8. Keep hot foods really hot.

9. Don’t leave food out for more than two hours.

10. Provide clean storage containers for leftovers. Write the food and date on all containers.

11. Discard food that hasn’t been refrigerated for more than four hours.

AT A RESTAURANT

1. Check to see if food handlers are wearing plastic gloves.

2. Find out if the food handlers are handling money. (Money is often contaiminaed with human feces.)

3. Is there a cough shield over the food table?

4. Skip the salad bar if the ingredients aren’t on ice.

5. Check to see if the restaurant has a clean plate policy for additional servings of salad.

6. Don’t eat salad dressing that’s in open bowls on the table.

7. Make sure hot food is kept in warming pans, kettles, and hot plates.

8. Each dish should have its own serving spoon or fork.

9. Servers should bring buffet foods out in small batches.

10. Does the menu say all beef will be cooked to medium temperature?

11. Hamburgers should be cooked until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.

12. Write the food and date on your doggie bag/box.

“Everyone is at risk for foodbourne illness,” according to the FDA’s Food Safety Education Website. That makes food safety your business. Call the local public health department if you see unsafe food practices. And follow the FDA’s advice during the holidays: When in doubt throw it out!

Copyright 2005 by Harriet Hodgson. To learn more about her work go to http://www.harriethodgson.com/.

Harriet Hodgson has been a nonfiction writer for 27 years and is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Before she became a health writer she was a food writer for the former “Rochester Magazine,” in her hometown of Rochester, MN. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from http://www.amazon.com. A five-star review of the book is also posted on Amazon. The book is packed with Healing Steps – 114 in all – that lead readers to their own healing path.

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Food poisoning is something that is becoming more and more commonplace. Sadly, we are seeing more and more news items about salmonella, staphylococcus and similar harmful bacteria, and the havoc they can cause.

To say that encountering this complaint would spoil your whole day would be a gross understatement. In fact you’re likely to spend several days recovering from it. In extreme cases it can be fatal.

So is there any way to make sure you never succumb to food poisoning? Well, there may be no infallible approach, but you can certainly act in such a way that your chances of becoming a victim are drastically reduced.

Personal hygiene is a good starting point. This question is perhaps a trifle taboo, but I’m going to ask it anyway – do YOU wash your hands after going to the toilet? If you don’t, you will after reading this. This is to me the most basic and essential step in keeping even a reasonable level of personal cleanliness. Yet so many people neglect to do this. To me, that’s just asking for trouble sooner or later, and is in any event a betrayal of everyone else you come into contact with.

Who do you think really wants to share with you the myriad of germs and microbes that you have on your hands immediately after attending to the bodily functions that we all have to attend to several times a day? And you will share them with everyone who touches almost anything fairly soon after you’ve touched it, or with whom you shake hands. It’s the reason why most PC keyboards are as rife with germs as a toilet seat.

I still see people coming out of public lavatories without so much as a glance at the wash basins. Yet they’ve been in a place rife with both air borne and surface bound germs and microbes. The very smell of them broadcasts their nature. Until such people actually DO wash their hands everything they touch will be contaminated with the harmful bacteria and shigella that is without doubt increasing and multiplying on their hands.

For this reason I always wash my hands carefully every time I return home from a trip out, even if I’ve only been to the corner shop. It makes sense, doesn’t it?

If all the doctors and nurses, patients and visitors, hospital workers and porters and everyone else to be found in hospitals simply washed their hands after doing what we all have to do a few times a day, then all the so-called hospital super-bugs, the MRSA and everything else that we spend millions of pounds or dollars trying to fight each year, all of it would simply disappear.

However, don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Always make a point of washing your hands thoroughly before preparing food. If the ingredients of the meal include meat, fish, fowl or eggs then wash after each time you’ve handled them.

The next point is to never eat raw food that comprises meat, fish, fowl, milk or eggs. Sea food is especially prone to harbour harmful bacteria, so be particularly careful when eating this. Wash all food under the cold tap before cooking or eating.

Above 65.5 or below 4.5. Those are the figures to remember concerning the temperatures in degrees Celsius or Centigrade in which bacteria cannot multiply. That’s why raw food has to be kept chilled until it is ready for cooking, when it should be heated to at least the temperature required to kill bacteria.

To be sure of this, meat should be cooked until there is no more pink left in it, fowl until none of the joints are red and fish should be flaking by the time it’s taken out of the oven.

If using a microwave oven you should use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Keep meat gravy or juice away from other food. Use separate utensils, chopping board, etc for meat and other animal products on the one hand and everything else on the other. Wash them with bleach or lathered water afterwards. In fact wash the whole kitchen work top area regularly and always after preparing dishes containing animal products. Replace sponges regularly and use paper kitchen towels for wiping down.

Food that’s been left at room temperature for 2 hours or more can be contaminated, especially if it is high in protein, eg meat, eggs, chips.

Be careful when defrosting meat or poultry, as the surface will defreeze more quickly than the inside. Bacteria may therefore be growing on the outside by the time the inside is unfrozen. Defreeze it in the refrigerator to avoid this problem. If keeping anything for another meal, replace it in the refrigerator immediately. And never keep meat or poultry, or fish, above vegetables or other kinds of non-meat food in the refrigerator in case anything falls down to cause contamination.

Trust your instincts. If food doesn’t somehow look right then it usually isn’t. A quick test with your nose should detect any tell-tale smell of decay or contamination.

Finally, eat your food slowly, relish it and allow your body and digestive system ample time and optimum conditions for digesting it. Bon appetit!

Philip Gegan is a writer and practitioner of Acupressure. He challenges you to read his advice and NOT be able to press away at least 10 kinds of pain, including headaches, colds, flu, hangovers, asthma, heartburn, and even… acne(!) at… http://www.pressawaypain.com

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