Avoiding Food Poisoning

What do Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Nature Valley have in common?  In the last two months, these three companies had to recall one or more products from their stores because of a possible risk of salmonella.  Samonella and E. Coli are common bacteria that cause food poisoning.  With food constantly being recalled because of these bacteria, it is important for us to learn what food poisoning, salmonella, and e. coli are, and what we can do to prevent contamination.

What is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning is a common, usually mild, but sometimes deadly illness. Typical symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea that occur suddenly (within 48 hours) after consuming a contaminated food or drink. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in the United States, 1 in 6 people becomes sick from eating contaminated food.

Ways to Prevent Food Poisoning

Safe shopping

  • Buy cold foods last during your shopping trip. Get them home fast.
  • Never choose torn or leaking packages.
  • Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods

Safe storage of foods

  • Unload perishable foods first and immediately refrigerate them. Place raw meat, poultry, or fish in the coldest section of your refrigerator.
  • Check the temperature of your appliances. To slow bacterial growth, the refrigerator should be at 40 F (4.44 C) , the freezer at 0 F (-17.7 C).
  • Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats, and variety meats within two days.

Safe food preparation

  • Wash hands before and after handling raw meat and poultry.
  • Sanitize cutting boards often in a solution of one teaspoon chlorine bleach in one quart of water.
  • Do not cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash hands, cutting board, knife, and counter tops with hot, soapy water.

Thawing food safely

  • Refrigerator: Allows slow, safe thawing. Make sure thawing juices do not drip on other foods.
  • Cold water: For faster thawing, place food in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge in cold tap water.
  • Microwave: Cook meat and poultry immediately after microwave thawing.

Safe cooking

  • Cook ground meats to 160 F (71 C)
  • Cook ground poultry to 165 F (74 C)
  • Cook beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts and chops to 145 F (63 C)
  • Cook all cuts of fresh pork to 160 F (71 C).
  • Whole poultry should reach 180 F (82 C) in the thigh; breasts 170 F (76.6 C).
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • Never leave food out more than two hours (or more than one hour in temperatures above 90 F [32 C]).

Read more Food Poisoning prevention tips here: click

Salmonella Bacteria

What is Salmonella?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Preventionsalmonella germs have been known to cause illness for over 100 years. They were discovered by an American scientist named Salmon, for whom they are named.  Every year, about 42,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States.  Salmonellosis is more common in the summer than winter.

Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without treatment.  However, the elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness, which must be treated promptly with antibiotics to prevent a spread of the salmonella infection.

Quick Tips for Preventing Salmonella from the CDC

  • Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly. Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs, or raw (unpasteurized) milk.
  • If you are served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs in a restaurant, don’t hesitate to send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.
  • Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry.
  • Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.
  • Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles, birds, or baby chicks, and after contact with pet feces.
  • Avoid direct or even indirect contact between reptiles (turtles, iguanas, other lizards, snakes) and infants or immunocompromised persons.
  • Don’t work with raw poultry or meat, and an infant (e.g., feed, change diaper) at the same time.
  • Mother’s milk is the safest food for young infants. Breastfeeding prevents salmonellosis and many other health problems.

What is E. coli?

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coliare harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.

Quick Tips for preventing e-coli infections:

  • WASH YOUR HANDS thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before preparing or eating food. WASH YOUR HANDS after contact with animals or their environments (at farms, petting zoos, fairs, even your own backyard).
  • COOK meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been needle-tenderized should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160°F/70˚C. It’s best to use a thermometer, as color is not a very reliable indicator of “doneness.”
  • AVOID raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices (like fresh apple cider).
  • AVOID swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard “kiddie” pools.
  • PREVENT cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.

Salmonella and E.Coli are common culprits that cause food poisoning.  Knowing about them and how to prevent them will help you live a healthier life!  Be sure to check the FDA’s website frequently so you know which foods to be wary of– and if that food happens to be one of your favorites, simply double-check to make sure the potentially contaminated batches have been taken off the shelf at your local supplier.


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