The dog days of summer are upon us and we have had our fair share of heat waves with more likely still to come. Socializing outdoors with barbeques and picnics is a typical way to spend time and traveling with food is common. The hot weather during this exceptionally hot season is a recipe for disaster and can ruin the fun if foods are not handled safely. Food poisoning, which causes GI distress and worse, is often the result of unsafe practices.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 6 Americans (48 million cases) get sick from foodborne diseas e each year by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Many of these cases can be attributed to foods not being kept at a safe temperature. Seniors, children, pregnant women and immuno-compromised people are at higher risk for contracting food poisoning. It is important to follow precautions to stay healthy.
"Careful hand-washing before, during, and after preparing food is important in prevention of food poisoning," according to Julie Friedman, Clinical Nutrition Manager at Phelps Memorial Hospital Center. "It is also critical to handle, cook and store foods safely to prevent food-borne illness," says Friedman who also suggests the following tips to minimize the risk of spoiling a celebration:
During and After Food Shopping:
When shopping, buy cold foods last and unpack them first. When possible transport in an insulated bag or cooler inside an air conditioned car.
At your destination place immediately in a refrigerator with a temperature no higher than 40 F unless to be used right away. Keep meat in a refrigerator or cooler until ready for cooking. Do not leave any perishable foods items out of refrigeration for more than a total of 4 hours from the time of purchase until consumption.
Keep Everything Clean:
Wash hands before and after handling raw meat and poultry. Thaw meat or poultry either in the refrigerator, in a leak-proof plastic bag in cold tap water or in the microwave. Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods.
When Transporting Food / Traveling:
Pack perishable foods with plenty of ice or a frozen ice pack in an insulated lunch bag or cooler. Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure temps stay below 40 degrees. Store inside the air conditioned car.
Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of meats before eating them.
Cook beef, veal, lamb, roasts and chops to 145F.
Cook fresh pork and ground meats to 160F.
Cook ground poultry to 165F and whole poultry to 170 degrees F (breast) to 180F (thigh).
Cook eggs to be included in any dish until the yolk is firm.
Use separate plates and utensils to handle raw and cooked foods.
Put cooked meat on a unused clean platter, not one that held raw meat.
Serve with clean utensils not used to handle uncooked foods.
Discard any food left out for more than 2 hours, but only 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 F.
Store with a date of preparation and throw away within 3-5 days.
Symptoms of food poisoning can occur within hours or develop over a period of days. Most people think of the obvious symptoms as being gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, but food poisoning can also result in more serious problems such as fever, chills, bloody stools, dehydration, kidney failure, nervous system damage and even death in severe cases or if the affected person has a compromised immune system.
If you follow the food preparation tips above, you should have a safe and enjoyable summer. For more information about programs and services at Phelps Hospital, go to www.phelpshospital.org.