Foodborne illness can affect anyone who eats contaminated food.  However, some people such as seniors, young children and those suffering from illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disease may be more susceptible to food which has been contaminated than others.   According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million persons get sick and 3,000 die from foodborne infections in the United States each year.  Symptoms of foodborne illness or food poisoning include fever, headache, muscle pain, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dehydration, nausea, vomiting and sometimes respiratory problems.
Sources of contaminated food include meat and poultry, hot dogs, deli meats, seafood, milk, cheese, eggs, sprouts, and vegetables.    The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration have a plethora of information on their websites.  They also advise everyone to check with their health care professional to identify foods that you should avoid including allergens which may affect you.
Some suggestions these websites provide are: cook meat or poultry to a safe minimum temperature, cook fresh seafood to 145 degrees, previous cooked seafood to 165 degrees, hot dogs and deli meats should be cooked to 165 degrees, milk should be pasteurized, along with eggs and egg products used in recipes calling for raw or undercooked eggs such as eggnog and mayonnaise.  The web site also suggests you should wash hands and food preparation surfaces often with detergent and water, separate raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat foods, cook food to the right temperature, and chill raw meat and poultry as well as cooked leftovers within 2 hours.
When shopping, check “sell-by and use-by dates, do not buy cans that are dented, swollen or rusted, choose unbruised fruits and vegetables, do not eat self-serve or free samples, do not buy cracked or unrefrigerated eggs, and refrigerate groceries right away.
When preparing foods, wash hands in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets.  Wash cutting boards, dishes utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water between the preparation of different raw meats, poultry and seafood products or preparation of any other food that will not be cooked.  Use paper towels to clean kitchen surfaces.  Wash produce and rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under water.
Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry or fish.  Don’t reuse marinades used on raw foods unless you first bring the marinades to a boil, use one cutting board for raw foods and another for ready-to-eat foods such as bread, and fresh fruits and vegetables.  Always use a food thermometer and when using a microwave, cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking.  Divide large amounts of food into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
If you suspect that you or your loved one is a victim of food poisoning, seek Immediate medical attention.  If a portion of the suspect food is available, preserve it by wrapping it securely and label it to say “DANGER” and freeze it.  This may be used to diagnose your illness and prevent others from becoming ill.  Save all packaging materials such as cans or cartons.  Write down the food type, the date and time consumed and when the onset of symptoms occurred.
If the suspect food is a USDA inspected meat, poultry or egg product, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-888-MPHotline.  For all other foods, call the FDA office of Emergency Operations at 1-888-300-4374.  Call your local Health Department if you believe you became ill from food you ate in a restaurant or other food establishment.
Finally, for more information on food safety, contact the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and HHS Food and Drug Administration.
We at Home Assist Senior Care wish to keep you, our readers, friends and clients safe and healthy.  Remember we are always there to assist you in your care needs.  We welcome your call.