Prevent Food Poisoning Before it Gets You!

For the last couple of days I have been consoling family members who have been the victim of food poisoning. Not a great way to spend your weekend. Clostridium perfringens is a bacterium that is often found on poultry and and raw meat.
Infections caused by this organism are often due to large quantities of food being prepared and kept warm for a long period of time before they are served. Outbreaks can occur in events with catered food, school cafeterias, institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes. It can affect anyone. The very young and elderly are at highest risk of infection and can experience severe symptoms that may last for 1 to 2 weeks. The main symptoms are diarrhea and abdominal cramps which develops within 6 to 24 hours. The symptoms usually last for less than 24 hours.
Fever and vomiting are not generally associated with this illness and it is not transmitted from one person to another.
How can this be prevented?
Foods containing beef, poultry and gravy should be cooked early and to recommended temperatures. then keep them warmer than 140°F or colder than 41°F. This will prevent Clostridium perfringens spores from surviving after the initial preparation. Meat dishes should be served hot and immediately after cooking. Leftover foods need to be refrigerated at 40°F or below as soon as possible (within 2 hours of preparation).
Reheat leftovers to at least 165°F before serving.
Staphylococcus aureus is another cause of food poisoning. It can be transmitted by food workers who carry the bacteria on their hands and contaminate milk and cheese products. It can also be found in sliced meat, puddings, pastries and sandwiches. These toxins are very fast acting and can cause severe illness (nausea, vomitting and diarrhea).
Symptoms usually develop one to 6 hours after eating. For most people, this type of food poisoning will cause a short-term illness. The best treatment is rest, plenty of fluid and stomach medicines. Antibiotics do not help treat this toxin. Wash hands thoroughly, including under the fingernails with soap and water before handling and preparing food. Do not handle food if you have a nose, eye, wound or skin infection. Maintain sanitary conditions in kitchens and food serving areas. Again, keep foods hot (over 140°F) and cold (40°F or colder).
Salmonella is also a bacteria and a very common source of food poisoning. Recently, large outbreaks have been caused by contaminated eggs and peanut products. You can also get it from poultry, ground meat, fruits, vegetables and even processed foods such as frozen meat pies.
Compared to causes of food poisoning, Salmonella is the most potent. It is also the most frequent cause of hospitalizations due to foodborne illnesses. Usually, the symptoms last for 7 to 10 days. Most people do not require antibiotics. Again, it is important to clean your hands as well as cutting boards, utensils and kitchen counters. Ground meat should be cooked to 160°F and your refrigerator needs to be below 40° F when storing food.
Remember, anyone can get food poisoning and complications such as dehydration may occur in severe cases. If there is any doubt about the status of your family member, contact your physician as soon as possible.

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