It is estimated that each year 30-80 million cases of food-borne illness from bacteria, mold, yeasts, or virus strike Americans. This month's article is on food safety, and is designed for patient education.
Feel free to have your staff duplicate this article on your stationary to use as a public health handout.
In the Refrigerator
Throw out any item that has passed the "use by" date on the label.
Throw out any item that is two days past a "sell by" date on the label.
Throw out any leftovers that have been in the refrigerator longer than 48 hours.
Wipe down the refrigerator to prevent build-up of small particles of debris that can breed molds and bacteria.
Buy refrigerator and freezer thermometers. Your refrigerator should be between 34 and 40 degrees. The freezer should be between 0 and 5 degrees.
Make sure raw meat, poultry, and seafood are in containers that will prevent their juices from leaking.
Keep eggs in the cartons rather than unloading them to the egg compartment (this prevents cross contamination by egg shells which may contain bacteria).
At the Supermarket
Plan your shopping so perishable items are picked up just before checkout.
Do not purchase packages that are damaged, loosely wrapped, leaking, or have been resealed, even if they are on sale.
Dented cans should be avoided, but if the seal is intact, the contents are safe to eat. If the can is leaky, rusty, the label is stained, the ends bulge, or the contents have an abnormal odor, discard it.
Plan your errands so the supermarket is the last stop before you go home. When you get home, refrigerate and freeze perishable items as soon as possible.
Frozen meat, poultry, and seafood should be free of ice crystals. Fresh fish should smell fresh.
Don't select dairy products if the container doesn't feel cold.
Check dates on a dairy products; often containers shelved in the back can be fresher by a week or more.
In the Kitchen
Wash your hands before unpacking groceries.
Wash your hands before meal preparation.
Wash your hands after handling raw meat, seafood, or poultry.
Wash everything that raw meat, seafood, and poultry touches -- plates, utensils, and cutting boards. If you handled the dishtowel after handling raw meat, seafood, or poultry, and before washing your hands, use a clean towel.
Wash all produce before use, even if it is organic.
Thaw frozen food from the refrigerator under cold running water, or in the microwave under defrost. Do not thaw frozen food at room temperature.
Use a fresh dishtowel each time you cook.
Change sponges often and clean the sponge with soap and hot water after any exposure to raw animal product. A recent University of Arizona study of 500 dishtowels and sponges showed that two-thirds contained bacteria that could cause illness.
Marinate meat, poultry, and seafood in the refrigerator. Do not use marinade as a sauce or in cooking unless you bring it to a boil. If you are unsure, it is best to discard any sauces that have been used to marinate raw animal products.
Refrigerate leftovers within one hour after cooking.
Large amounts of leftovers like stews, soups, and casseroles should be divided into smaller containers so they cool faster. A large amount of food in a large container may take hours to cool, even in the refrigerator. This gives bacteria plenty of time to proliferate.
Eat leftovers within 48 hours or freeze them.
Store starches (stuffing, rice, etc.) in separate containers from meat, seafood, and poultry.
Common Types of Food Poisoning
Many times what Americans think is the 24-hour flu is actually a case of food poisoning.
Source of Infection: Campylobacter Causes: Undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood Time to Symptoms: 2-5 days Symptoms: Stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, blood in the stool
Source of Infection: Botulism Causes: Improperly canned foods Time to Symptoms: 8-36 hours Symptoms: Difficulty breathing, swallowing, and vision problems. This is a medical emergency.
Source of Infection: Cholera Causes: Seafood from contaminated waters Time to Symptoms: 1-3 days Symptoms: Abdominal pain and diarrhea
Source of Infection: Gastroenteritis from viruses Causes: Food handling without washing hands or seafood from contaminated water. Food that has been coughed or sneezed on. Time to Symptoms: 12-48 hours Symptoms: Nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting
Source of Infection: Hepatitis A Causes: Food handling without washing hands or seafood from contaminated water. Time to Symptoms: 15-50 days Symptoms: Liver disease, jaundice, low energy, and nausea
Source of Infection: Salmonella Causes: Undercooked meat, poultry, or foods that have been contaminated by their juices. Food handlers who have not washed their hands. Time to Symptoms: 12-48 hours Symptoms: Abdominal cramps, fever, vomiting, and nausea
Source of Infection: Shigella Causes: Food handling without washing hands Time to Symptoms: 1-7 days Symptoms: Cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, fever.
Source of Infection: Staphylococcus Causes: Food handlers who do not wash their hands. Food that has been coughed or sneezed on. Staph is present around skin infections such as pimples and boils; thus, it can be transmitted if the person simply wipes or pinches the lesion and does not wash their hands before handling food. Time to Symptoms: 1-8 hours Symptoms: Abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
Source of Infection: Clostridium Perfringens Causes: Large portions of warm food that cool too slowly in the refrigerator or are left out too long at room temperature. Time to Symptoms: 8-24 hours Symptoms: Abdominal pain, diarrhea. May also have nausea and vomiting
U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
The Wellness Encyclopedia. Editors of the University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1991.
Puzo, Daniel. Food Safety Primer. Los Angeles Times. 11/24/95.
University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter. 12(6), 1996.
G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN Brea, California
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