Avoid food­borne ill­ness at the hol­i­day cook­out

The News-Times - - BUSINESS - By Amanda Cuda

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates that there are about 48 mil­lion cases of food­borne ill­ness an­nu­ally na­tion­wide. Each year, these ill­nesses re­sult in an es­ti­mated 128,000 hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and 3,000 deaths.

A lot of food poi­son­ing hap­pens around hol­i­days, such as Memo­rial Day, said Re­becca Bonetti, a reg­is­tered di­eti­tian and out­pa­tient di­eti­tian with Bridge­port Hos­pi­tal.

“We see it at all times of year, but any time that there are a lot of par­ties, peo­ple are more likely to get sick,” she said.

Bac­te­ria and viruses are the big­gest causes of food poi­son­ing, which car­ries such symptoms as up­set stom­ach, abdominal cramps, nau­sea and vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhea, fever, and de­hy­dra­tion. Symptoms may range from mild to se­vere.

One main rea­son food­borne ill­ness is more com­mon dur­ing hol­i­days and other party-inspiring events is that party food — such as the afore­men­tioned potato salad — is of­ten left out for long pe­ri­ods of time. As food sits at room tem­per­a­ture, cold stuff loses its chill and hot foods cool off, in­creas­ing the odds of bac­te­rial growth, Bonetti said.

She said, when food hits a tem­per­a­ture be­tween 41 de­grees and 145 de­grees Fahren­heit, it is in a “danger zone,” when it’s more likely to de­velop pathogens that can make peo­ple sick.

“The guide­line is, food should be out for no more than two hours,” Bonetti said. “If it’s re­ally hot, like above 90 de­grees, it shouldn’t be out any more than an hour.”

One possible so­lu­tion, she said, is to pre­pare and or serve food in small batches. For in­stance, in­stead of putting the en­tire vat of Aunt Char­lotte’s potato salad on the pic­nic ta­ble, scoop some into a bowl, serve it, and store the rest in the fridge until it is needed.

Bonetti said im­proper food prepa­ra­tion is another cul­prit in ill­nesses.

“A lot of peo­ple like their food rare but you want to make sure it’s at the right tem­per­a­ture,” to make sure that any po­ten­tial harm­ful bac­te­ria is de­stroyed.

Ac­cord­ing to a fact sheet from the Con­necti­cut Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health, ham­burg­ers should be cooked to an in­ter­nal tem­per­a­ture of 158 de­grees Fahren­heit; steaks and ribs should be cooked to 145 de­grees and poul­try should be cooked to 165 de­grees. Use a food ther­mome­ter to check tem­per­a­tures.

It’s also cru­cial to avoid cross-con­tam­i­na­tion, Bonetti said. For in­stance, it’s un­safe to slice veg­eta­bles on the same cutting board as raw meat, be­cause all the bac­te­ria from the meat will stay on the board and taint the veg­gies.

Also, don’t put cooked food on a tray that has just held raw food. Again, Bonetti said, “all the bac­te­ria stays on the plate. Get a new plate.”

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