How to avoid food poisoning this holiday weekend

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- The culprit food causing a foodborne illness, often called food poisoning, is often a mystery.

Nearly half of food illnesses are linked to produce, including fruits, nuts, leafy greens, and other vegetables.

In fact leafy greens are the most often involved. Norovirus is often the germ that causes it. Dairy is the second most frequent food source for infections, however contaminated poultry is the food source with the most fatal infections usually caused by salmonella and listeria, according to a report in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. Surprisingly fish and shellfish account for only 6 percent of illnesses.

Food handlers are often to blame for norovirus outbreaks as it is easily passed when infected food handlers don’t wash their hands. Despite food safety measures, the threat of foodborne illness remains in meat and produce.

Salmonella is the top cause of foodborne illness.

The second most common cause of illness is campylobacteria, which lives on live chickens and can taint meat during slaughter; it can also be found in raw, unpasteurized milk.

Chicken and ground beef top the list of “risky meat.”

Interestingly enough, pesticides are not a cause of foodborne illness. Some simple precautions, both at home and when eating out, can lower your risk of foodborne illness.

Cross-contamination in the kitchen is one of the most important elements.

For instance, slicing chicken on a cutting board, and then using it to prepare a salad, increases infection risk. So wash your hands often, especially when preparing food and wash raw food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the following steps to prevent food poisoning.

Prepare foods safely.

  • Shop safely. Raw meats and eggs can contaminate other foods they touch.
  • Meats and foods that have been in contact with raw meat need to be cooked thoroughly.
  • Perishable foods should be refrigerated promptly and not left out on the counter.
  • Look for expiration dates on perishable foods.
  • Keep hot foods at 140F or above and cold foods at at least 40F.
  • If you are not sure if a food is safe to eat, throw it out.

Food poisoning treatment
Call 911 if you think the food poisoning may be from seafood or mushrooms or if you become severely dehydrated.

Control nausea and vomiting. Avoid solid foods until vomiting ends. Then eat light, bland foods, such as saltine crackers, bananas and rice. Don’t take anti-nausea or anti-diarrhea medication without asking your doctor.

Drink clear fluids, or an oral rehydration solution, such as Pedialyte or Gatorade.

Watch for signs of severe dehydration, such as dry mouth, decreased urination, dizziness and fatigue.

Call a doctor immediately if diarrhea lasts more than several days.

Food preparation
Start with clean hands. Wash with soap and water for 30 seconds. Use separate cutting boards for fruits and vegetables and raw meat to avoid cross-contamination.

Wash fruits and vegetables under running water.

Proper cooking is essential for meat, poultry and seafood.

Cooking temperatures have to reach a certain temperature to destroy bacteria such as E. Coil and Salmonella.

A thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone.

Storing leftovers
Harmful bacteria can start growing at room temperature, so any leftovers should go into the fridge within two hours of cooking.

Dr. Art Mollen's practice is located at 16100 N. 71st St. in Scottsdale. For more information, call 480-656-0016 or log on to