Recent news stories about tainted food have instilled fear in the hearts and stomachs of Chipotle Mexican Grill-eaters. While it may benefit you to be extra cautious of eating out during an E. coli outbreak, there are additional ways to prevent food poisoning.

Foodborne illnesses affect 1 in 6 Americans each year (about 48 million people), but this number could be conservative considering most of us keep tummy troubles to ourselves (CDC). Symptoms can last anywhere from a couple hours to days and can include mild discomfort, nausea, vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea. Some cases of food poisoning, especially from organisms like E. coli O157:H7, listeria, vibrio vulnificus, and clostridium botulinum (botulism) can have severe consequences such as kidney failure or even death in persons with weakened immune systems (foodsafety.gov).

Never fear, there is good news! Scientifically proven methods can keep the stomach bugs at bay. Take a look at the Four Simple Steps to Food Safety and visit foodsafety.gov to learn more!

Foil Food Poisoning

  1. Don’t leave food out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  2. Wash surfaces and hands before and after working with poultry.
  3. Keep tabs on current outbreaks to avoid contaminated items in the grocery store.
  4. Always wash fruits and vegetables. Even those with peels, like melons or cucumbers!
  5. Leave the leftovers after 3-4 days. When re-heating leftovers, heat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Listen to your gut… before your gut talks back! When it comes to spoiled food, you are better safe than sorry.

Guard Your Gut

  • Don’t Be Fooled: Meat is an obvious culprit in foodborne illness, but a CDC study shows that 46% of cases involve fruits, veggies and nuts. Always wash produce; even fruits with peels. Cutting into a fruit can spread contaminants.
  • Know Your Beef: It’s ok to eat your steak “still mooing” because the bacteria are killed during the cooking process. Ground meat, such as in hamburgers, can have harmful bacteria mixed throughout in the grinding process, so you want the ground meat well done.
  • Numbers Don’t Lie: About 50% of raw chicken carcasses have significant levels of campylobacter and 4 in 5 food poisoning cases stem from contaminated poultry. Cook chicken to at reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds to avoid illness.”

For symptoms and sources of food borne illness: Foodsafety.org

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CNN Health, Foodsafety.gov. LifeWork Strategies EAP, and Adventist HealthCare. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For medical advice, consult your physician. Feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.