The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has earmarked September as National Food Safety Month. The campaign is designed to keep American people and pets healthy. Every year, 48 million get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die as a result of eating contaminated food. Dogs are also prone to suffer from food poisoning. While anyone may experience symptoms associated with foodborne illness, certain groups of people have a higher risk of developing far more serious conditions if they eat tainted food: pregnant women, children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. The best way to combat food poisoning is to avoid contracting it in the first place – no matter your age, species or health status.
How to Determine If You Have Food Poisoning
WebMD reports the following symptoms frequently result from food poisoning:
- Stomach Cramps
- Dogs may start eating grass.
Less common symptoms, which are also sometimes associated with foodborne illness:
- Muscle and Joint Aches
- Blood in Stool
- Double Vision
- Muscle Weakness and Tingling
Rather than originating from one solitary germ, food poisoning is caused by some 250 different bacteria, viruses, and parasites. That’s a lot of very tiny bugs!If you experience severe, persistent symptoms which last longer than 48 hours, you may want to seek medical attention. Doctors might run laboratory tests, to determine the DNA pathogen and potentially prescribe antibiotics, if appropriate.
The only way to contract food poisoning is by consuming tainted food. So, practice the following food safety steps to reduce your risk of contracting foodborne illnesses:
- Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces often.
Germs survive in many places and quickly spread around the kitchen. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and hot water before, during, and after food preparation and consumption. Wash utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water. Rinse fresh fruit and vegetables under running water. Don’t forget to wash your pet’s bowl, too!
- Separate: Don’t cross contaminate.
Raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs can spread germs to ready-to-eat foods, unless you keep them separated. Use a separate cutting board and plate for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. While grocery shopping, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from other foods. To safely store food, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from all other foods in the refrigerator. Or, better yet, just give all meat to your dog.
- Cook: To the right temperature.
Food is safely cooked once the internal temperature is raised enough to kill germs. The only way to determine if food is safely cooked is by using a food thermometer. Don’t try to judge whether food is safely cooked by checking color and texture.
Safe Cooking Temps (per the CDC):
- 145°F for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb (Cook. Then rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating.)
- 160°F for ground meats, such as beef and pork
- 165°F for poultry, including ground chicken and turkey
- 165°F for leftovers and casseroles
- 145°F for fresh ham (raw)
- 145°F for fish
- Bacon – I’ll eat it at any temperature!
- Chill: Refrigerate promptly.
Maintain refrigerator temperature below 40˚F. Toss food according to this info, offered by the CDC. Refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. (If outdoor temperature is greater than 90°F, refrigerate within 1 hour.) Safely thaw frozen food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never leave foods out on the counter to thaw. Doing so is not only unsafe but could also prove tempting to the family dog.Bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food which reach room temperature.
To maintain food safety even when dining out, follow these tips:
- Pay attention to inspection scores.
Check a restaurant’s score on the health department’s website. If you don’t see the letter grade or other rating on display, ask the health department for a copy of the report, or look for another place to dine.
- Look for certificates which reflect kitchen manager food-safety training.
Proper food safety training helps improve practices that reduce the chance that foodborne germs and illnesses will spread.
- Observe food-handling practices.
Food workers who are sick can spread their illness to customers. Although many kitchens are out of sight, pay attention to the way food is prepared in areas that you can see. Make sure workers use gloves or utensils to handle foods that will not be cooked, such as deli meats and salad greens.
- Only eat food that’s been cooked properly.
Certain food, including meat, poultry, and fish, should be cooked at a temperature high enough to kill harmful germs. If someone serves you undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs, send the item back to be cooked until it will be safe to consume.
- Never eat lukewarm food.
Cold food should be served cold. Hot food should be served hot. If you’re choosing items in a buffet or salad bar, make sure hot food is steaming, and cold food is cool to the touch. Germs that cause food poisoning grow quickly when food is in the danger zone, (between 40˚F and 140˚F). Like most canines, I’ll eat food at pretty much any temperature.
- Ask your server if the chef’s use pasteurized eggs in foods such as Caesar salad dressing, custards, or hollandaise sauce. Raw and undercooked eggs could make you sick unless they’ve been pasteurized.
- Take care of your leftovers.
Refrigerate within 2 hours of eating out. If the temperature outside is above 90˚F outside, refrigerate leftovers within 1 hour. Eat leftovers within three to four days. When in doubt, throw it out
If, despite observing all of the above, you contract a food borne illness, notify the local health department. Reporting an illness may help public health officials identify an outbreak of food borne-disease.
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