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Food Poisoning Prevention

The much dreaded “stomach flu” is often times the result of food poisoning. An estimated 350,000 people die worldwide every year from food-borne related illnesses. Harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses and chemicals can contaminate our food and water and cause serious illness, lasting side effects and even death. Keep you and your family safe from food poisoning by preventing contamination and learning the symptoms and the proper treatment for a food borne illness.

Prevention

  • Clean: Wash your hands, utensils and food surfaces often. Warm, soapy water should be used to clean surfaces, utensils and hands after coming into contact with raw food.
  • Cook your food:  In order to kill harmful bacteria in food, it has to be heated to a certain temperature. Cook ground beef to 160 F (71.1 C); steaks, roasts chops, such as lamb, pork and veal, to at least 145 F (62.8 C). Cook chicken and turkey to 165 F (73.9 C). Make sure fish and shellfish are cooked thoroughly.
  • Don’t cross-contaminate: Keep unprepared food away from cooked food or ready to serve food. This will ensure that the prepared food doesn’t become contaminated.
  • Keep it cold: Refrigerate or freeze perishable food. It is important to do this before the food becomes contaminated (within 1-2 hours after preparation).
  • Defrost food appropriately. The safest way to thaw frozen food is to put it in the refrigerator. Microwaving the food on “defrost” at 50% power is also safe (if food needs to thaw faster) and cook immediately.
  • When in doubt, throw it out! If you are unsure of how food has been prepared and/or stored, it is best to throw it away. The food may contain toxins and bacteria that can’t be killed by cooking. Don’t taste the food if you’re unsure, it can still contain bacteria even if it doesn’t look, taste or smell bad.

Symptoms

  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain or cramps

Treatment

  • Antibiotics. With certain kinds of bacteria antibiotics are helpful, however food poisoning caused by the bacteria listeria needs to be treated intravenously with antibiotics.
  •  If you are pregnant seek medical attention immediately: Food borne-illnesses can have serious consequences on babies. Talk to your doctor about the risks and special considerations for expectant mothers. 
  • Replace lost fluids. Dehydration can occur quickly with a food poisoning. Replacing lost fluid and electrolytes is vital for your recovery. If vomiting and/or diarrhea persists for more than three days, seek professional medical attention.

When to Seek Medical Help

  • If you’re unable to keep down food or liquids (continuous vomiting).
  • If your diarrhea persists for more than three days.
  • If your vomit or stools are bloody.
  • If you have neurological symptoms (dizziness, blurry vision, lightheadedness).
  • If you have severe pain in your abdominal area.
  • If you show signs of dehydration (severe weakness, dizziness, severe thirst, dry mouth, lightheadedness).

Resources:

Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-poisoning/basics/symptoms/con-20031705
The World Health Organization, Food Safety: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs399/en/

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