Preventing Foodborne Illnesses in the Summer
Summer is a time of sunshine, happiness and fun. But with all of this comes an increased risk of foodborne infections – after all, bacteria do thrive in the heat.
Don’t let food poisoning spoil your summer fun!
Read on for more information and tips on preserving food – whether you’re grilling, having a picnic, planning a party, or attending a festival.
Some General Tips:
✓ If you experience diarrhea and are suspecting food poisoning, make sure you replenish your fluids and electrolytes.
✓ Let your stomach settle. Stop eating and drinking for a few hours.
✓ Do not self-medicate with antibiotics! These may actually worsen symptoms in certain illnesses.
Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of the following symptoms:
- High fever (temperature more than 102°F or 38°C)
- Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
- Bloody stools
- Prolonged vomiting that prevents you from keeping food/liquids down
- Signs of dehydration, such as:
- Dry mouth
- Making very little urine
- Dizziness when standing up
Although cooking food may destroy some bacteria, toxins produced by organisms like Staphylococcus aureus are heat stable and may not be destroyed. This bacteria thrives in potato salads, ham salads and sandwich spreads that are left at room temperature for long periods of time.
- Wash your hands while handling foods! This will help keep S. aureus out of your food.
- Refrigerate both raw and cooked foods. This will prevent the growth of these bacteria if any are present.
- Keep hot foods hot (140°F or hotter) and cold foods cold (40°F or colder).
- Food contaminated with Staph toxin may not smell bad or look spoiled. Be careful!
- If buying food at a festival or carnival, make sure the vendor has a license to sell food and that employees wear gloves and use tongs
Meats, poultry, fish and eggs are common sources of Salmonella. The most common culprits of salmonellosis are contamination of cooked foods and insufficient cooking.
- Make sure your raw foods do not come in contact with cooked foods
- Throw out marinades/sauces that have touched raw meat (these can spread germs to cooked foods)
- Use clean utensils to remove cooked meat from the grill
- If you used utensils or surfaces to store raw products, clean them thoroughly
- Salmonella is destroyed by cooking at temperatures above 150 degrees F (66 degrees C)
- Fever +/- chills
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea may contain blood – contact your healthcare provider.
Most illnesses from raw oysters and shellfish occur in the summer. The culprit in these foods is Vibrio.
- An oyster that contains harmful bacteria does not look, smell, or even taste different from any other oyster.
- Hot sauce, lemon juice and alcohol DO NOT kill Vibrio bacteria
- Avoid raw oysters
- Wash your hands with soap and water after handling raw seafood
- Separate cooked seafood from raw seafood and its juices
- Wash open wounds and cuts thoroughly with soap and water if they have been exposed to seawater or raw seafood or its juices.
- Can last from 1-3 days
- Diarrhea, vomiting
- Fever and chills
Clostridium botulinum can exist as a heat-resistant spore, and can grow and produce a neurotoxin in home-canned foods. This infection can have serious consequences – from paralysis to death.
- An affected food may show signs of spoilage such as a bulging can or an off-odor
- The botulinum toxin is destroyed by boiling the food for 10 minutes.
- Blurred vision
- Respiratory distress
- Muscle weakness and paralysis
Contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms.
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