Take these simple steps to avoid foodborne illness

Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018 7:37 PM

If 49 percent of adult meals are eaten away from home, according to the National Restaurant Association, what about the other 51 percent?

The majority of “stomach flu” is actually food poisoning. Why did no one else get sick? We each react differently. One person ends up with fever, vomiting and muscle aches though no one else eating the same foods reacted. This is not uncommon.

Each year, at least one in six Americans (48 million people) get food poisoning. Of those that go to the doctor, an estimated 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.

Anyone can get food poisoning eating contaminated food, but some are at higher risk – kids younger than 5, adults older than 65 or people with compromised immune systems. Depending on personal gut health at any given time, anyone can be at risk. This month my focus is certification classes for restaurant managers, their staff and entrepreneurial home food producers.

The most common bacteria causing foodborne illnesses (of about 200 options) are salmonella, clostridium perfringens, E. coli, campylobacter and norovirus. Common symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, but they can cause blindness, still birth or even death, to name a few.

It is important to get medical attention if a person has:

High fever (temperature over 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, measured orally).Blood in stools.Frequent vomiting, which can prevent keeping liquids down.Signs of dehydration, such as decreased urination, dry mouth, dizziness when standing up.Diarrhea for more than three days.To protect food from pathogens, it should be purchased from a safe source, stored at proper temperatures and cooked at adequate temperatures and for adequate time to kill pathogens.

To lower the chances of food poisoning, note four key categories:

CleanBacteria can survive in a variety of places in a kitchen. Wash your hands and food-preparation surfaces often. Always rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under cool, running water just before serving. Scrubbing with a vegetable brush under the running water is especially important for produce that has uneven surfaces.

SeparateEven after you’ve cleaned your hands (full 20 second lather and rinse) and cleaned cutting boards and surfaces thoroughly, raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs can spread harmful bacteria to ready-to-eat foods, unless you keep them separate. Most recalls actually involve produce. Extra attention needs to be given to keeping fruits, vegetables and meats separate. Cooked foods should not go back to the same plate they were on when raw.

CookFoods should be cooked to a safe internal temperature whether you are at the grill or in the house. A food thermometer is a must to know that a safe internal temperature has been reached:

145 degrees for solid cuts of beef, veal, lamb, pork, fin and shellfish; then let it rest for 3 minutes before carving or consuming.160 degrees for ground beef, veal, pork, lamb and egg dishes.165 degrees for all poultry, including ground meat, as well as stuffing, leftovers and casseroles.ChillIs your refrigerator set colder than 40 degrees? Place a thermometer periodically in different locations including inside the door. Be careful not to overfill or densely stack items because this alters cool air flow. Refrigerate promptly to help prevent bacterial growth (bacteria doubles every 15 to 20 minutes). offers a guide for safe food-storage temperatures through its FoodKeeper webpage and app.

Wendy Rice is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach her at or 382-6461.Wendy Rice

On the Net

Safety tips for handling and preparing common foods: