As summer approaches and temperatures rise, our risk of contracting a foodborne illness increases as well. Food poisoning and other illnesses from food are common all year round, but are more common in the warmer months of the year. Why? Many forms of bacteria thrive in the warm weather and multiply rapidly, meaning the risk of contracting any type of illness from bacteria increases. So as Memorial Day approaches, now is the time to brush up on how you prevent food poisoning when preparing food for yourself and your family during these warmer months.
Foodborne illnesses can impact people differently, and symptoms can even vary depending on the type of food consumed. The most common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain and cramping. Some patients experience symptoms within a few hours, while others don’t notice a problem until a few days have passed. Food poisoning can run its course anywhere from a few hours to several days and can be treated with antibiotics and replenishment of lost fluids.
If symptoms don’t seem to be disappearing or more severe symptoms arise, it’s important to consult your doctor immediately. These symptoms may include: diarrhea and vomiting for more than three days, appearance of blood in vomit or stools, extremely painful cramping, dehydration, a fever over 101.5 degrees F., and blurry vision, muscle weakness and tingling in arms and legs.
The Four C’s
Food safety and proper cooking are essential in preventing foodborne illness from bacteria that may cultivate on food. When preparing food, there are four essential steps to follow to ensure what you are cooking is safe to eat.
- Cleaning - Make sure your kitchen is clean before you begin cooking. Wipe down all surfaces, use clean cookware, and try to clean as you go to keep your kitchen tidy. Periodically clean your kitchen to prevent bacteria build up and to give you peace of mind. Before handling food, wash your hands thoroughly.
- Cooking - Follow recipes and package instructions for correct temperatures and cooking times to ensure what you are handling is properly cooked. Check any meat you are preparing by cutting the middle with a knife and checking the center. Juices that may run out should be clear and not bloody. Before serving, keep foods warm and covered.
- Cross-Contamination - Most commonly, foodborne illnesses occur when bacteria is spread from food to kitchen utensils, back to food, etc. After handling raw meat, fish, or poultry, wash your hands again before touching another ingredient or cooking utensil. Keep ingredients separate to avoid cross-contamination by using different cutting boards and bowls. Make sure utensils used to handle raw ingredients are cleaned thoroughly after use.
- Chilling - Before putting any leftovers in the refrigerator, check to make sure the food has cooled down enough. Chilling food that is still hot is another way that bacteria can appear and cause problems. Wait at least one to two hours after food is done cooking before beginning the cooling process. However, leaving food out too long in warm weather causes food to spoil faster, so be sure to avoid leaving it out too long during your BBQ or picnic!
While food poisoning is more common in warmer weather, it is an illness that can occur at any time of the year when poorly cooked food is consumed. It’s important to pay close attention to how you are cooking and to take necessary steps to ensure food is properly prepared. And if you’re experiencing any symptoms associated with foodborne illness, consult your doctor for more information and a diagnosis. At Genesis Medical, our staff can provide additional information on food poisoning, how to prevent it, and what to do if you think you may have contracted it. Schedule an appointment at your nearest location and our staff can help you with anything you may need.