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Dr. Minocha is a practicing gastroenterologist and author of "Natural Stomach Care: Treating and Preventing Digestive Disorders with Best of Eastern and Western Therapies".
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of food contaminated with disease producing organisms or their toxins may result
in illness. 76 million cases of food-borne illness occur, each year, in
the United States,
5000 of which result in death.
illness is usually caused by bacteria or its toxins, but may be related to
parasites (trichinosis), viruses (hepatitis), and chemicals (mushrooms).
Contamination of foods may occur during cultivation, harvesting, handling,
storage, transportation, or preparation.
account for 79% of food-borne outbreaks in the United States. Salmonella constitutes over
half of these confirmed cases. Campylobacter causes four million cases each year
women, small children, and persons with chronic problems such as diabetes, liver
cirrhosis, chronic kidney failure, AIDS and cancer are at an increased risk for
elderly are especially vulnerable to food-borne illnesses because of weakened
immune systems. In addition, stomach acid, which helps in destroying the
ingested bacteria, is reduced in the elderly.
should avoid raw fish, oysters, mussels, raw meat or poultry,
non-pasteurized milk or cheese, lightly cooked eggs or egg-products such as
Caesar salad, custard, cake batter and beverages such as egg nog.
They should also stay away from
non-pasteurized fruit or vegetable juices (they have a warning
label). Foods made from pasteurized eggs are okay.
symptoms of food-borne illness are nonspecific and resemble stomach flu.
Patients complain of stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Diarrhea may
by bloody. Some patients may have fever, headache and body aches.
Dehydration may occur.
Diagnosis is based on the history of ingestion of particular foods and
laboratory tests including stool tests. Examination of the suspected food, if
available, is helpful.
food-borne illnesses are mild and require only increased fluid intake to
replenish the losses.
with bleeding, fever, neurological symptoms, shallow breathing, cold and clammy
skin, dizziness, dry mouth, decreased urination, dizziness, double vision,
difficulty speaking or any unusual symptoms should consult their physician. Some
patients may need hospitalization for hydration or other medical treatment.
disorders like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s
disease), irritable bowel syndrome, kidney failure, and other autoimmune
diseases may occur as a result of food-borne illness.
The four basic rules of prevention are Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.
hands and surfaces
Wash hands with hot soapy water frequently for at least 20 seconds,
especially after handling raw meat or produce, after playing with pets, after
using restroom and after handling diapers.
raw foods in water and use a vegetable brush to remove dirt. Additional
protection can be accomplished by using kitchen-sanitizing agents, i.e. .a
solution containing one teaspoon of chlorine bleach in one quart of water.
kitchen counter tops and cutting boards often, especially after using them for
raw foods. Replace worn out cutting boards. Paper towels are better than cloth
towels for cleaning.
Keep raw foods away from cooked foods. Do not put the cooked food back
onto a plate that held the raw food.
thawing products in the refrigerator, keep the food on bottom shelf so that
fluids from the thawing food do not drip on to other foods.
meat in the refrigerator, cool water or microwave oven and not on the kitchen
table. Remember, thawing 4-5 pounds of meat in the refrigerator takes about 24
not marinate food at room temperature.
Use a clean food thermometer. This will ensure that food is cooked to the
desired temperature and will also avoid overcooking. Cook steak, veal, lamb
roasts to at least 145oF, chicken (whole bird or thigh) to 180oF,
chicken breast to 170oF, and ground beef, pork or lamb
to 160oF. Fish should be cooked such that it flakes
with a fork. Cook eggs till the yolk and egg-white are firm.
When using a microwave for cooking, cover the food and stir it a couple
times during cooking.
Reheat precooked foods. Leftovers should be reheated to at least 165oF.
Sauces, soups and gravy should be boiled.
refrigeration of food is important. Bacteria in food at room temperature double
every 20 minutes. Food left at room temperature for two hours or more is not
safe for ingestion even though there may not be any change in its color or odor.
the refrigerator temperature at least 40oF and the freezer at zero
degrees. Freezing slows down the growth but does not kill the organisms.
not jam pack the
refrigerator. Divide large portions of food into small containers for rapid
cooling. Cool air needs to circulate to keep foods cool.
assume that just because the food was purchased in the supermarket, it is clean
and safe. The
is undertaken for wheat, potatoes, spices, seasonings, pork, poultry, red meat,
whole fresh fruit and dry or dehydrogenated foods. The irradiated food is not
This is meant to be an informational exercise and NOT a medical consultation. Your doctor is the only one who can best assess your situation and offer you medical advice.
Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition: http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/list.html
Safety and Inspection Service www.fsis.usda.gov
food safety page www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/seniors.html
for Food Safety Education www.fightbac.org
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