Posted by on January 5, 2012 - 6:33am

Some people don’t take food poisoning very seriously. Maybe that’s because the symptoms usually are not long-lasting in most healthy people—a few hours or a few days—and usually go away without medical treatment. But foodborne illness can be severe, even life-threatening to anyone, especially those most at risk such as older adults, infants and young children, pregnant women, and people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or any condition that weakens their immune systems.

Threats to food safety constantly evolve. New disease-causing organisms emerge and known pathogens become more virulent. In addition, consumers increasingly want food that is less processed.  Even though government food safety regulators received important new tools to help protect us in the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, it’s clear that individuals need to take every practical step they can to prevent foodborne illness.

Since it’s traditional at the start of a new year to think about what needs to be changed in one’s life to make it happier and healthier, here are a few suggestions for resolutions to help eliminate foodborne illness from your and your families’ lives.

Clean: Resolve to wash your hands before, during and after handling food. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing has the potential to save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention. To do it effectively, wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap. Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well for at least 20 seconds. Air dry or use a clean paper towel.

Separate: If you only have one cutting board, resolve to get another to help avoid cross-contamination. Use one for foods that will be cooked, such as meat, poultry, and seafood, and the other for foods like fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw. That way the raw foods won’t be contaminated by the juices from the ones to be cooked.  If you do get a new cutting board, get one that’s dishwasher-safe.  The very hot water and strong detergent typically used in dishwashers can eliminate a lot of bacteria.

Cook: Resolve to get a food thermometer, if you don’t have one.  Only a food thermometer can make sure meat, poultry, fish, and casseroles are cooked to a safe internal temperature—hot enough to kill any pathogens that may be present.

Chill: Similarly, resolve to get an appliance thermometer to  be sure your refrigerator is at or below 40ºF. Between 40ºF and 140ºF is the Danger Zone when bacteria multiply rapidly. The more bacteria, the more likely someone will get sick.  Most refrigerators have just a colder/warmer adjustment, so the only way to know the temperature is to put a thermometer inside.



For more information, check out these resources:

Long-Term Effects of Food Poisoning

Don’t Cross-Contaminate

Making Food Safer to Eat


Posted by on February 17, 2011 - 4:40pm

As more people turn to organic lifestyles, we thought it would be a good idea to share this post on raw milk.
Posted February 15, 2011     By LCDR Casey Barton Behravesh, DVM, DrPH, US Public Health Service

There are many reasons why some people are thinking about drinking raw milk these days. (Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful germs.) Some people want to eat less processed food. Others have heard that raw milk contains more of certain nutrients than pasteurized milk, or that it can prevent or even solve various health problems. Still others think of buying raw milk as one way to support local farmers and sustainable agriculture.

As a public health epidemiologist and veterinarian, I know firsthand how animals and their germs can contaminate all kinds of food, including milk. Also, in my job in the Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch at CDC, I help investigate outbreaks caused by contaminated food and contact with infected animals.

If you’re thinking about adding raw milk to your diet (or your family’s diet), it’s important for you to understand the risks of drinking raw milk.

Why raw milk is dangerous
Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can make you very sick or kill you. Yes, it’s true that it’s possible to get “food poisoning” or foodborne illnesses from many foods, but raw milk is one of the riskiest of all. Raw milk and products made from raw milk (such as cheeses and yogurts) can cause serious infections, such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.

What happens if you get sick from raw milk
Getting sick from raw milk can mean many days of diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting. Less commonly, it can mean kidney failure, paralysis, chronic disorders, and even death. The seriousness of the illness is determined by many factors, such as the type of germ, the amount of contamination, and the person’s immune defenses.

Speaking of immune defenses… it’s important to remember that some people are at higher risk of getting sick from drinking raw milk. The risk is greater for certain age groups, such as infants, young children, and older adults. It’s also particularly risky for pregnant women (and their unborn babies) and those with weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer, an organ transplant, or HIV/AIDS.

Though some people are at higher risk of getting sick from raw milk, even healthy adults and older children can get seriously ill. Those who recover often suffer from life-long medical consequences. To see how devastating these illnesses can be, check out these real-life stories about the dangers of raw milk.

Even healthy animals may carry germs that contaminate raw milk
Outbreaks of illness related to raw milk have been traced back to both grass-fed and grain-fed animals. Raw milk supplied by “certified,” “organic,” or “local dairies has no guarantee of being safe.

How to stay safe
To keep your family safe, follow these simple tips:

Always drink pasteurized milk. Check the label or package to be sure.
If you prefer organic milk, make sure that it’s pasteurized. Raw, organic milk is not safe.
If you or a member of your family consumes raw milk and then becomes ill, call your health care provider immediately. If it’s an emergency, call 911.
For more information, including questions and answers about raw milk, see Food Safety and Raw Milk (CDC).

Posted by on September 28, 2010 - 8:58am

Did you know that perishable food carried in an old-fashioned brown bag can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime?  Now that children and teens are back in school, it may be a good idea to take a look at how you are packing your kids' lunches.  Most food experts recommend that an insulated lunch box is the best way to keep their lunches safe.   Insulated boxes help maintain food at a safe temperature until lunchtime.   Perishable foods such as cold cut sandwiches and yogurt , can be left out at room temperature for only 2 hours before they may become unsafe to eat.   But with an insulated box and a chilled freezer gel pack , perishable food can stay cold and safe to eat until lunch.  These suggestion also apply to mom and dad who bring their lunches to work.    However, in many cases, parents have access to refrigerators at work, something the kids don't have.

Other safety tips:

Clean Hands: Wash your hands before preparing lunches, and remind  your children to wash their hands before eating.

Freeze your juice box:  When frozen they can be used as freezer packs.   By lunchtime, the juice should be thawed and ready to drink.

Hot Foods:  To keep hot foods hot, use an insulated thermos bottle.

Non-perishable Foods:   Lunch items that don't need to be refrigerated include whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat and fish, chips, bread,  peanut butter, jelly, pickles and mustard,