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Archive for February 22nd, 2013

Yes, healthy foods can make you sick if contaminated with infectious pathogens or toxins.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year in the United States 48 million people or one in six get food poisoning. The most common culprits include norovirus, salmonella, clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter. Symptoms may range from mild diarrhea to organ failure. From 2009-2010, salmonella resulted in nearly 29,500 illnesses, 1,200 hospitalizations, and 23 deaths.

We rarely consider fresh foods as sources of food-borne illness, but an eleven-year study discovered nearly half (46 %) of reported incidences were from produce. The primarily culprit was the norovirus organism. Here’s how healthy foods ranked in causes of illness and sometimes death.

  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach or kale, accounted for 22% of food-borne illnesses. Salads, one of the favored vegetable sources for power-packed nutrients, delivered unwanted organisms that caused gastric distress and worse. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the following before eating produce. See the complete list and more at http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=10952
    • Wash all fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy ones, with cool water.
    • Scrub firm produce with a firm brush—remember the listeria outbreak from cantaloupes?
    • Discard outer leaves of lettuce.
    • Remove and discard bruised or damaged spots.
    • Dry produce with a paper towel or clean dish towel.
    • Cook raw sprouts before eating.
  • Dairy products, with 1.3 million cases, caused the second most incidents of illness. They accounted for the most hospitalizations and over the eleven years, resulted in 140 deaths. Although this study did not differentiate between raw and pasteurized milk, unpasteurized milk and their products are subject to contamination from Campylobactor, the organism most responsible, Escherichia coli, and listeria.
  • Meats resulted in the most deaths from food poisoning. In the study, nineteen percent came from poultry, mostly from listeria or salmonella organisms.

Proper food handling from farm to table is the best way to prevent food poisoning. When you eat out, check the restaurant’s health inspection score. The following steps help prevent food-borne illnesses at home.

  • Wash hands often.
  • Clean surfaces and utensils before preparing foods.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by using separate areas and utensils for meats and disinfect after use.
  • Cook susceptible foods, such as meats, to appropriate temperatures.
  • Avoid holding cooked foods at room temperature for more than two hours. For longer times, hold foods above 140o F.
  • Chill foods properly. Keep refrigerator below 40o F. For large quantities, such as gravies and soups, store in shallow containers to chill rapidly and prevent spoilage.
  • Inventory refrigerator often and toss cooked foods after four days.

   Take appropriate precautions and enjoy eating healthy foods without becoming a victim of unwanted illness.

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