OGDEN -- Want to get sick this weekend? Leave your food sitting out all afternoon before eating it. Handle your raw meat and fruit with the same utensils. Don't cook your meats all the way. Better yet, stop by the local swimming pool and leave your groceries in the trunk of your hot car.
Picnics and cookouts are a great way to enjoy the Fourth of July and other summer activities. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most common times to contract food poisoning.
Food-borne illnesses increase during the summer because bacteria thrive and multiply faster in warmer temperatures. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about 48 million people get sick each year from food poisoning, contributing to 3,000 deaths and more than 120,000 hospitalizations. Already this year, 159 cases of campylobacter, 109 cases of salmonella, 18 cases of E. coli and nine cases of Shigellosis have been reported to the Utah Department of Health.
But with a little planning and education, local experts say, you can have your potato salad and hamburger and walk away with a calm and healthy gastrointestinal system.
"Time and temperature abuse and cross contamination are the biggest and easiest mistakes to make throughout the summer months," said Tina Jean, a chef and instructor at Harmons Station Park Cooking School. "Everyone planning any type of outdoor event should take precautions to ensure all food items are cooked and held at their appropriate temperatures.
Ogden Clinic family practice nurse practitioner Chase Bailey said although many people are familiar with E. coli and salmonella, those are just two of many potential causes of food poisoning. Others include campylobacter enteritis, listeria, staphylococcus, shigellosis, norovirus, botulism, toxoplasma gondii, cholera and hepatitis A.
"The most significant, preventable culprit is poor hand hygiene," Bailey said. "Either from an infected person spreading illness directly by preparing the food or through cross contamination during the preparation, such as cutting chicken and then handling fruit."
Other main culprits of food poisoning include undercooked meats, food left standing at room temperature after cooking, failure to wash fruits and vegetables, unpasteurized dairy products, food left out in the heat of the day, improper food refrigeration and contamination from utensils or preparation surfaces.
Instead of avoiding certain foods, Jean recommends taking the time to research what proper food temperatures are, and then making an effort to keep foods appropriately hot or cold.
Some of the most common symptoms of food poisoning are abdominal cramping, bloating, body aches, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever, Bailey said. In severe cases, people can experience headaches, kidney and liver problems and rarely, neurological symptoms.
Bailey and Jean recommend using a meat thermometer while grilling. Burgers, chops and steaks should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Chicken and hot dogs should register 165 degrees. Also, keep your refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees or colder to reduce your risk of food poisoning.
"Some food borne illnesses are vaccine preventable. Families should ensure they are up to date with their immunizations," Bailey said. "Stay home if you are sick. Wear your sunscreen, stay well-hydrated, be safe and have fun."
SEVEN SUPER STEPS TO SAFE FOOD IN THE SUMMER
During warm weather, it is especially important to take extra precautions and practice safe food handling when preparing perishable foods such as meat, poultry, seafood and egg products. The warmer weather conditions may be ideal for outdoor picnics and barbecues, but they also provide a perfect environment for bacteria and other pathogens in food to multiply rapidly and cause food-borne illness. Follow the suggestions below to Fight BAC!(r) (foodborne bacteria) and reduce the risk of food-borne illness this summer.
* Wash, wash, wash your hands. Always wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" twice to get a sense of how long you should wash.
* Marinating mandate. Always marinate food in the refrigerator. Don't use sauce that was used to marinate raw meat or poultry on cooked food. Reserve a portion of the unused marinade to use as a sauce.
* Hot, hot, hot. When grilling foods, preheat the coals on your grill for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the coals are lightly coated with ash.
* Temperature gauge. Use a food thermometer to ensure that food reaches a safe internal temperature.
* Where's the beef? Chicken and fish? Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, while large cuts of beef such as roasts and steaks may be cooked to 145 degrees for medium-rare or to 160 degrees for medium. Poultry must reach a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Fish should be opaque and flake easily.
* Stay away from that same old plate. When taking foods off the grill, do not put cooked food items back on the same plate that held raw food, unless it has been washed with hot water and soap first. And in hot weather (above 90 degrees) foods should never sit out for more than one hour before going in the refrigerator.
* Icebox etiquette. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled, so it is important to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant cold temperature. Keep the cooler out of the direct sun. Keep drinks in a separate cooler from foods. The beverage cooler will be opened frequently, while the food cooler stays cold.
-- Source: www.fightbac.org