Friday, August 20, 2010

You are what you eat: How not to get sick during a food-borne disease outbreak

When it comes to the food you eat, there could be more than meets the eye. Did you know that foods — from lettuce to peanut butter to breakfast cereal — can contain things that make you sick? Bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter could be lurking in all types of foods and you wouldn’t even know it.

Hundreds of people learned that lesson first-hand recently, when they were sickened by salmonella-contaminated eggs. Almost 300 million eggs have been recalled, which unfortunately is not that uncommon. In fact, more than 1,000 food-borne disease outbreaks are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention every year, involving everything from beef and poultry to fruits and vegetables. If you aren’t aware of the latest outbreak or don’t know if your food is infected, you and your community could be at risk of a serious food-borne illness.

Luckily, there are ways to be prepared. The key is knowing when food-borne disease outbreaks are out there so you know what foods to avoid. The most common foods linked to food-borne illness include poultry, beef and leafy vegetables. The best way to stay informed is to stay up on recalls. The Food and Drug Administration recall Web page lists the latest info, which you can sign up to receive via e-mail. You can also subscribe to an RSS feed for recalls or follow FDA recalls on Twitter. This way, you’ll be the first to know when an outbreak occurs.

If you think you’ve consumed contaminated food, you should follow these guidelines:
• If serious symptoms occur, call your doctor.
• Identify the food product, report the time and date it was consumed and track when symptoms began.
• Inform your local health department if the food was served to a large group of people.

For more information, FDA has dished out some important food handling tips to protect you from food-borne illness. And be sure to check out these podcasts on food safety from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Photo credit: Photo by Julija Sapic, courtesy iStockphoto

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1 comment:

angeltoes said...

People also need to more careful about the food they buy. Chickens that are raised in tiny, stacked coops that poop all over over each other and are going to have antibiotics are going to have riskier eggs. Factory farming created this problem. It's time we demanded safer food, not cheap food.