According to EverydayHealth, “the CDC estimates that 48 million illnesses, 128,000
hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths occur each year as the result of foodborne germs.” Many
people don’t realize how widespread the problem of foodborne illness is. For most, it is a
nuisance. But for the yearly 3,000 families, it is a deadly and painful experience.
Food poisoning illness can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and other
unpleasant side effects. Young children, the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those who
are pregnant or who suffer from chronic health issues are at a higher risk for hospitalization. The MOST vulnerable risk long-term debilitating injuries and even death. For these reasons, obviously, every family wants to avoid food poisoning. But sometimes, no matter how much you wash and clean your produce, food borne illness is a reality that will sicken one-in-six people every year.
Being knowledgeable might help. Some foods are naturally more likely to be carriers of Salmonella, E.coli, Cyclospora, and other pathogens. But although many people think of raw meats being possibly contaminated with food poisoning, in truth it is not much more likely to be contaminated than raw dairy, vegetables, and other produce – these products are also at risk of being contaminated with harmful pathogens. The key is to treat ALL food as a potential source of contaminating and reduce that risk accordingly. For any product, a “kill step” is preferred – it is critical to cook your raw/uncooked products to safe, regulated temperatures. For all chicken and turkey products, the safe temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and for fish and whole cuts of beef and pork, it is 145 F. And last but not least in the meat department, for ground beef, veal, and any product containing eggs, it is 160 degrees. In the absence of a “kill step” such a cooking, items like cold lunch meats, or seafood such as raw sushi and ceviche, should be avoided by vulnerable portions of the population.
Other products that lack a :kill step” include produce such as unpasteurized milk, eggs, cream, and yogurt, all common carriers of Salmonella. In order to circumvent illness, it is vital to only consume these products when they contain pasteurized milk and eggs in order to avoid risky pathogens. Other foods such as soft cheeses, for example, feta and brie, are dangerous for those with a compromised immune system or pregnant women. Instead of soft cheeses, eat hard cheeses, such as mozzarella. Furthermore, when it comes to eggs, never eat them raw. If a recipe calls for raw eggs, the product remains dangerous until cooked – if you are tempted to eat the cookie dough before baking the cookies, buy edible cookie dough. With dairy products, it is also especially important to follow the expiration dates.
Though this tends to surprise people, another group of at-risk foods are unwashed vegetables and fruits. One vegetable that this especially applies to, are sprouts. Sprouts have a long history of being the source of food poisoning outbreaks, mostly due to the conditions they are grown in. Since they are grown close to the ground and in warm, humid weather, bacteria flourishes. And if these vegetables aren’t washed and handled properly, then bacteria such as Salmonella or E.coli can be consumed. If you plan on eating sprouts, then it is best that they are cooked first. This also goes for any other vegetable, or fruit. As Healthline states, “fruits and vegetables have caused a number of food poisoning outbreaks, particularly lettuce, spinach, cabbage, celery, and tomatoes.”
Another caution? According to national food poisoning lawyer Ron Simon, “be careful of Organic foods, which are often grown on small farms that do not employ best practices, often use manure for fertilizer, and do knot use pesticides. Unfortunately, processed foods are safer in terms of their likelihood of being infested with food borne pathogens.”
Lastly, food safety is important. Even if the products mentioned above already come “pre-washed”, rinse the food thoroughly. Wash your hands when dealing with raw foods, and cook them to safe temperatures. A food thermometer is important to confirm whether you have cooked the product to the proper temperature. Follow proper food safety regulations