NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Keeping Your Food Safe This Summer

GettyImages-459911339It is estimated that there are almost 48 million cases of foodborne illness/food poisoning in the United States each year (source: https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-poisoning). Of these cases, around 128,000 individuals are hospitalized and about 3,000 deaths occur. Rates of foodborne illness are higher during the summer months, as they are often warmer and more humid—the ideal environment for bacterial growth. In addition, many people participate in outdoor food-related activities, such as picnics, barbeques, and campsites, where the typical safety controls of a kitchen, such as refrigeration, cooling, and running water, are not always available

Keep reading to learn about the common causes of food poisoning, their symptoms, and steps you can take to protect your food this summer.

Common Food Poisoning Culprits and Their Symptoms

The onset time of the signs and symptoms of food poisoning depend on the type of virus, bacteria, or other pathogen you were exposed to and the symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some of the most common food borne illness causing pathogens and their symptoms include the following.

Salmonella

Symptom onset: 6 hours to 6 days after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, vomiting.

Food sources: Raw or undercooked poultry and meat; eggs, unpasteurized (raw) milk and juices; raw fruits and vegetables.

Staphylococcous aureus (Staph)

Symptom onset: 30 minutes to 8 hours after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping.

Food sources: Foods that are not cooked after handling (sliced meats, pudding, sandwiches, etc.).

Clostridium Perfringens

Symptom onset: 6 to 24 hours after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Diarrhea and stomach cramps (vomiting and fever are uncommon).

Food sources: Beef, poultry, gravies, dried and/or precooked foods.

Norovirus

Symptom onset: 12 to 48 hours after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting.

Food sources: Leafy greens, fresh fruit, shellfish, unsafe water.

Clostridium Botulism

Symptom onset: 18 to 36 hours after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Double/blurry vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, muscle weakness.

Food sources: improperly canned or fermented foods.

Escherichia Coli (E Coli)

Symptom onset: 3 to 4 days after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Severe stomach cramping, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody).

Food sources: Raw or undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized (raw) milk and juices, raw vegetables (sprouts, lettuce), unsafe water.

Listeria

Symptom onset: 1 to 4 weeks after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: headache, stiff neck, fever, muscle aches.

Food sources: Soft cheeses, raw sprouts, fresh melon, hot dogs, and other deli meats.


Individuals at Increased Risk for Foodborne Illness

People who are most at risk include the following:

  • Pregnant women and infants.
  • Children younger than 5 years old.
  • Elderly (> 65 years of age).
  • Immunocompromised (cancer, HIV/AIDS, autoimmune diseases, etc.)


6 Steps for Practicing Food Safety This Summer

Follow these tips to avoid food poisoning at your summer gatherings.

Wash Your Hands

Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after food preparation and handling. Be sure to dry your hands completely after washing using a clean towel. If you don’t have running water or access to safe water, be sure to bring wet disposable wipes, paper towels, and surface disinfectant for cleaning hands, cooking surfaces, and utensils.

Keep Cutting Boards and Utensils Clean

Use separate cutting boards, serving dishes and other utensils (tongs, spatulas, etc) for cooked and raw foods. Be sure to thoroughly wash all items that come into contact with raw food with warm soapy water prior to reuse.

Get a New Plate After Handling Raw Meats

Never serve cooked foods on the same plate or platter that once held raw meat, poultry, or fish to avoid cross-contamination.

Thaw in the Refrigerator

Thaw food in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature or on the counter.

Cook to Safe Internal Temperatures

Use a food thermometer to ensure the food reaches safe internal temperatures:

  • Beef, pork, lamb, veal (steaks, roasts, chops, etc.): 145F
  • Ground meats (hamburgers, etc.): 160F
  • Whole and ground poultry (chicken, turkey): 165F

Don't Leave Food Out

Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours after cooking. If outdoor temperatures exceed 90F, refrigerate perishable foods within 1 hour. Keep your refrigerator below 40F.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: summer picnics food safety illness prevention viruses bacteria food poisoning

Gut Check: Digestive Health Boosts Your Immune System

GettyImages-997808980Have you ever noticed that during the cold and flu season, some people just don’t get sick no matter what? Or maybe you have wondered why after being exposed to the same virus, one person gets sick while the other doesn’t.

The answer to that lies in your immune system and how strong it is. When you are exposed to bad bacteria or viruses, it’s up to your immune system to protect you from being infected. If your immune system is strong, your body will fight off the threat of sickness. If you have a weak or compromised immune system, you may end up sick. What you might be surprised to learn is this: The strength of your immune system is highly dependent on the condition of your digestive system.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Let’s Talk Microbes

Microbes live inside your digestive system. They are living organisms that affect your overall health. The protection that some of these organisms provide is beneficial to your immune system. The good bacteria recognize when illness-producing intruders enter your body; the organisms attack the intruders so that you don’t get sick. If you don’t have enough of the good bacteria in your gut, you will be more susceptible to viruses like colds and stomach viruses. You also may be at more risk for autoimmune diseases such as colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease.

Although there is a large supply of these good microbes living in your gut, they can easily become diminished. If you have recently taken antibiotics, you have not only wiped out the bad bacteria, but also the good bacteria. Antibiotics are not selective in their destruction.

With that being said, antibiotics are not the only way that good bacteria becomes exhausted in your digestive system. For example, the chlorine in your drinking water can destroy them, as can the pesticide residue on the food that you eat.

Once the supply of helpful microbes in your intestines dwindles, bad microbes such as yeast, fungi, and disease-causing bacteria begin to take over. Immune systems become compromised when the bad takes over the good.

Cue the Probiotics

If you think that your good microbes might be minimal, it is not difficult to remedy the problem. The solution is to take probiotics. These are the good microbes that you can consume in your diet. Once they have entered into your body, they settle in your digestive system and get to work protecting you from sickness and destroying the bad bacteria that might reside there.

The option of consuming probiotics in a capsule form is there, but you can also replenish the good microbes by eating yogurt. Check the label to be sure that the yogurt you buy says that it contains active cultures, which is the good bacteria that you need to eat.

It is important to act now and get a jump on this year’s cold and flu season. Improve your gut function and fight off illnesses by getting ahead of the game.

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition disease prevention immunity digestion gut health wellness viruses probiotics bacteria