oliday parties can be a lot of fun, but that buffet of dairy-laden salads and cold cuts can be riddled with bacteria, multiplying exponentially as quickly as every twenty minutes.
Each year, according to the CDC, about 76 million people in the United States become ill from the food they eat, and about 5,000 of them die
Computer generated image of
from CDC/Melissa Bower.
We know that bacteria are ubiquitous, so why is food any different? Bacteria eat much the same things we do, so a buffet for us is also a buffet for them. When they are well fed in a cozy warm environment, they will replicate quickly. Anyone who has had food poisoning can tell you, it’s no party.
experience food poisoning this year!
If you have ever had food poisoning, you know the signs. However, for those fortunate few, some symptoms to watch for are nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps, and a mild fever. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should see a doctor if you’ve experienced frequent vomiting, inability to keep down liquids, blood in vomit or stool, diarrhea for more than three days, extreme pain or cramping, or a temperature higher than 101.5
C). Any neurological symptoms like blurry vision, muscle weakness or tingling in the extremities are also red flasg.
The time for symptoms to arise after eating can vary widely: from one hour to 28 days. Refer to the
Mayo Clinic chart
for a list of pathogens and their corresponding incubation times and the foods likely to be involved.
About 5,000 Americans will die from food poisoning this year. The biggest culprit? Under-cooked meat.
While you should always be careful to store all food properly and maintain good hygiene when cooking, there are certain foods that are at higher risk for bacterial contamination than others.
Under-cooked meat is the worst offender, followed by green salads.
New York Times
reported the eleven most common foods to cause food poisoning. While under-cooked meat is number one, number two may surprise you. No, it’s not that creamy mayo-based salad or that mystery gelatin dessert; it’s that healthy green salad! Those leafy greens are responsible for 24% of non-meat cases of food poisoning. Whether it’s from contact with animals, contaminated water, or poor storage practices, that spinach may do more than give you your daily value of iron. Here is the list of the top 11 offenders:
1. Under-cooked meat
2. Green salads
8. Ice Cream
However, before you pass up that yummy potato salad or say no to the cheese platter, consider these preventive steps to stay well.
1. Do not place bags and containers over food that will not be cooked. Bacteria-laden juices can drip onto the food below. Always place meats beneath anything eaten raw, preferably in a covered container.
2. Anything eaten without further cooking should be in a sealed container and kept below 40°F (4
3. When you’re ready to cook, be sure to cook thoroughly and keep prep stations disinfected with a 10% bleach solution before and after use.
4. Any ground meat, poultry, or casseroles need to come to an internal temperature of 165°F (
, while beef, pork, ham and seafood need to come to 145°F (63
5. Greens need to be washed thoroughly (even the purchased pre-washed varieties) and eggs should be cooked until yolk and whites are firm.
6. Discard food that has been sitting out at room temperature for long periods of time. The FDA recommends throwing out any food that has been left at room temperature for longer than two hours.
7. All hot foods should be maintained above 140°F (60
while serving and all cold foods should be maintained lower than 40°F (
Following these simple rules will lower your chances of food poisoning this holiday season and also keep you and your guests safe in the months to come.
Santa Maria, CA