Chances are that sometime during the past 24 months, your body was invaded by a bacterium or virus that had taken up residence in a food you ate. Odds are that it didn’t land you in the hospital but the food poisoning it gave you probably made you feel miserable. While almost any food can give you a dose of harmful bacteria, you’re most likely to get sick from dairy products, eggs, poultry, red meat or seafood.
Recently you probably heard of the big egg recall because of the increased number of Salmomella cases believed to be caused by contaminated eggs. So how do I keep my family safe? The consumer’s best protection against Salmonella infections is safe food handling. People can reduce the risk of Salmonella Enteritidis infection by doing the following:
- Keep eggs refrigerated at ≤ 45 degrees F (≤7 degrees C) at all times.
- Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
- Wash hands, cooking utensils, and food preparation surfaces with soap and water after contact with raw eggs.
- Eggs should be cooked until both the white and the yolk are firm and eaten promptly after cooking.
- Do not keep eggs warm or at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- Refrigerate unused or leftover egg-containing foods promptly.
- Avoid eating raw eggs.
- Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or undercooked, unpasteurized eggs. Restaurants should use pasteurized eggs in any recipe (such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing) that calls for raw eggs.
- If you are not sure about a menu item, ask your server if it includes raw or undercooked unpasteurized eggs.
- Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs should be avoided, especially by young children, elderly persons, and person with weakened immune systems or debilitating illness.
- Use pasteurized milk and dairy products
- Keep all dairy products refrigerated when not in use, even if the products are pasteurized.
- Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).
- Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Cooking kills the harmful bacteria.
- Request that raw sprouts not be added to your food. If you purchase a sandwich or salad at a restaurant or delicatessen, check to make sure that raw sprouts have not been added.
- Do not eat raw or undercooked meat, poultry, or fish. Meat should no longer be pink inside. Fish should be opaque and flake easily.
Other ways to avoid Salmonella include:
Keep hands and surfaces clean.
- Wash hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets.
- Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before preparing another food item.
- Keep raw eggs, meat, poultry, and seafood separate from other foods.
- Use a different cutting board for meat, poultry, and seafood items, if possible.
- Wash hands, cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot, soapy water after contact with raw eggs, meat, poultry, or seafood.
- Do not place cooked food on a plate that held raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
Cook food to proper temperatures.
- Check internal temperatures of food to make sure they are fully cooked.
- Whole cuts of beef: 145°F
- Ground beef: 160°F
- Whole poultry: 180°F
- Poultry breasts and roasts: 170°F
- All cuts of pork: 160°F
- Do not eat meat that is pink inside unless the internal temperature has been checked. Fish should be cooked until it is opaque and flakes easily.
Refrigerate food promptly.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods, prepared foods, and leftovers within 2 hours of preparation.
- Don’t defrost food at room temperature–thaw it in the refrigerator, under running water, or in the microwave.
- Refrigerator temperature should be no higher than 40°F, and freezer temperature should be no higher than 0°F.
Proper hand washing is the single most effective measure for preventing the spread of foodborne illnesses.
A person infected with Salmonella Enteritidis usually has fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea beginning 12 to 72 hours after consuming a contaminated food or beverage and lasting 4 to 7 days. In the elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems, more serious illness or even death may occur.
For more information about safe food preparation and prevention of food poisoning call your Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.