Contributed by Prince William County
With the holidays just around the corner, many individuals and groups have begun planning their holiday parties which often includes food and beverages. Each year, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are a reported 48 million cases of food borne illness in the U.S. – that’s equivalent to 1 in 6 Americans who become ill resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
Food-borne illness, also known as food poisoning, is the result of poor handling of food and improper cooking or inadequate storage of food. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are more than 250 food-borne diseases most of which are infections caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins and chemicals. Although Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli are the most recognizable of these infections, Salmonella is the most common cause of food poisoning.
The effects of food poisoning can vary depending on the amount of exposure, your age and your health. The most common signs and symptoms of food poisoning are:
- abdominal cramps
Groups considered as high risk for food poisoning are:
- Older adults whose immune system may not respond as quickly and as effectively to infectious organisms as a younger adult’s immune system.
- Pregnant women due to changes in metabolism and circulation.
- Infants and young children whose immune systems haven’t fully developed.
- People with chronic diseases/conditions such as diabetes, liver disease or AIDS or people receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer, reduces their immune response.
Don’t Discount Those Vegetables
Although Americans view meat as a health safety threat, fruits and vegetables are most common sources of foodborne illnesses not meat, eggs and seafood. Because fresh produce is uncooked, it becomes susceptible to contamination when coming into contact with people, food, mostly anything.
USDA’s Four Basic Food Safety Messages
To protect you and your family from contracting a food-borne illness, best practices is to follow the Department of Agriculture’s four basic food safety messages — clean, separate, cook and chill:
- Wash hands and work surfaces well and often.
- Keep raw meat and poultry apart from cooked foods to prevent cross-contamination.
- Use a food thermometer to ensure meats are safely cooked.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers if it’s not going to be eaten within 2 hours.
- Keep cold foods cold (40°F or lower) and hot foods hot (140°F or higher).
- Remove bones from large pieces of meat or poultry and divide them into smaller portions before storing.
When in Doubt, Throw It Out
- Discard perishable food that has sat at room temperature for more than two hours. You can’t tell by looks, smells or taste if food is contaminated.
- Examples of perishable foods are meats, poultry, fish, cooked vegetables, dairy products and eggs.
Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue (www.pwcgov.org/fire) would like to remind families, during the holidays and throughout the year, how special occasions are cherished moments we spend with our families and friends. So, whether you’re preparing and/or serving food, please take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of your loved ones while providing a lasting and favorable event.
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