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

Summer Nutrition: Packing a Healthy Eating Picnic

ThinkstockPhotos-465173011.jpgDuring the summer, the days are stretching longer, the temperatures are rising, and the sun is shining brighter! It’s time to enjoy the outdoors. Whenever I visit bigger cities, I notice that their parks are packed with people enjoying picnics, which is one of my favorite things to do to explore and discover a new outdoor space. So let’s bring the picnic to our local parks! Surprise your significant other, take the family out for an afternoon in the park, or enjoy time with friends playing football or frisbee.

Equipment to Bring

When planning a picnic, make a list of items you will need, especially if this is your first time. Here are some items you may need to bring:

  • Plastic or paper plates
  • Can opener and corkscrew
  • Disposable eating utensils
  • Garbage bag
  • Reusable, heavy-duty serving pieces
  • Roll of paper towels
  • Disposable plastic cups
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paper or cloth napkins
  • Thermos for drinks or soups
  • Bread knife or sharp knife
  • Insect repellent
  • Wet napkins
  • Matches
  • First aid kit and sunscreen
  • Tablecloth
  • Small cutting board

Healthy and Delicious Picnic Food Options

Think healthy! Typical picnic fare—such as potato salads, greasy burgers, chips, and beer—can be high in calories and fat. You do not have to compromise your waistline when planning a picnic. Try some of the following tips to keep your meal tasty and light.

Appetizers:

  • Cut up veggies—carrots, celery, broccoli, and green and red pepper—and bring along a low-fat dip. Brightly colored veggies will maximize the amount of vitamins you get in your meal.
  • Good options for salty snacks include crackers topped with peanut butter, baked tortilla chips and salsa, and nuts and dried fruit mix.
  • Try a garden salad with vegetables, beans, and fruits, topped with nuts and an oil-and-vinegar dressing.
  • Avoid creamy pasta and potato salads. They are high in fat; and if left in the heat, can create an ideal medium for bacterial growth, which can cause food-borne illness.

Entrees:

  • Try pita sandwiches or wraps. Pair a protein source—turkey, chicken, lean ham, tuna or salmon—with lettuce leaves and vegetables such as chopped celery, peppers, onion, and shredded carrots.
  • Replace mayonnaise with mustard or drizzle with olive oil and vinegar dressing.
  • Salads topped with flaked tuna or salmon and oil and vinegar dressing.
  • If your picnic area has a barbecue grill, try grilled chicken breasts, lean hamburgers, turkey burgers, or veggie burgers. Opt for a whole-grain bun instead of white.
  • Grill vegetables on a skewer. Try red or green peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, and onion.
  • Corn on the cob is an excellent choice to add to an entree. For added flavor, use garlic or onion powder. Grill for a great taste.

Desserts:

  • Skipping out on the high-fat treats doesn’t mean you need to miss out on a summer sweet. Try a colorful fruit salad with peaches, mangoes, berries, kiwi, and watermelon.
  • Take along angel food cake and top with mixed berries.

Drinks:

  • Be sure to drink at least eight glasses of water per day for proper hydration.
  • Sweet drinks can increase thirst and add unwanted calories. Instead, try natural fruit juices diluted with water.
  • Try to limit alcohol intake, as alcohol can be dehydrating and high in calories.

Get outside, be active, and enjoy a tasty and healthy lunch at a local park!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating summer picnics