Summer Stomachs: Don't Let Food Poisoning Ruin Your Fun

posted by Colette Rossiter on Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Who doesn’t love summer?  The warm weather is inviting for family gatherings, weddings, class reunions, picnics, and barbeques….and also foodborne illnesses (i.e. food poisoning)!  According to the CDC, about 1 in 6 (or 48 million) people gets sick each year from contaminated food.  And summertime is prime time for a foodborne illness to rear its ugly head. 

You know the scenario; one minute you’re fine, and the next you’re battling stomach cramps, chills, diarrhea and vomiting.  Your first thought is, “What did I eat that made me so sick?”  Most of us tend to think it was the last thing we ate.  But that is not always the case.  These nasty disease-causing organisms found in food all act a bit differently in the body.  Some make you sick in a matter of hours, while others hang around waiting to make their attack in several days, or even weeks! 

Food can get contaminated anywhere it is processed, packaged, shipped, prepared, or stored.

Here are some tips to keep your food safe to eat this summer:

  • Wash your hands, utensils, and food surfaces often. Remember when grilling; wash the plate and the utensil you used to take your burgers to the grill.  Grilled meat should always be served on a clean plate.
  • Keep raw foods away from ready-to-eat foods like fruits and vegetables. It’s easy to cross contaminate while prepping your meal.
  • Wash your produce under running water, even if you intend to peel it.  Think about melons.  If you don’t wash the outside surface of the melon, your knife can drag bacteria right into the flesh of the melon, and right into your mouth!
  • Cook food to a safe temperature. Every home chef needs a food thermometer! Using this essential tool should become a habit. 
  • Fresh beef, veal, lamb, and pork - 145 °F, let rest for 3 minutes.
  • Seafood - 145 °F
  • Ground beef - 160 °F
  • Egg dishes - 160°F
  • Poultry - 165 °F
  • Leftovers and casseroles - 165 °F
  • Eggs - Cook until yolk and white are firm.

Follow the two-hour rule. Bacteria can multiply rapidly in foods that sit out too long. So get food in the refrigerator within two hours.  If it’s a really hot day (temps in the 90s), one hour would be best.

When in doubt, throw it out. Don’t be tempted to give questionable food the taste test. Even if it looks and smells fine, it may not be safe to eat.

If you believe you or someone you know became ill from eating a certain food, you can report it by calling Iowa’s toll-free Food Poisoning Hotline: 1-844-IowaSic.  If your symptoms are unmanageable at home, call your healthcare provider. 

For more information, check out www.foodsafety.gov

About The Author

Colette Rossiter

Colette Rossiter, serves as assistant director for Spencer Hospital Community Health Services and Clay County Public Health. Colette has enjoyed the variety of responsibilities her nursing career has provided, yet has a passion for public health and safety.