Friday, July 6, 2012

Summertime Food Safety

Long days and warm weather make summer the perfect time of year for picnics and cookouts. Before you dig in, be aware that unwashed or undercooked food, as well as improperly cleaned dishware and utensils, can harbor bacteria, viruses and other toxins that cause gastrointestinal illness.

According to Niraj Jani, MD, GBMC’s Division Head of Gastroenterology and Gastrointestinal (GI) Oncology, the symptoms of what is commonly referred to as “food poisoning” may begin within two to six hours of eating contaminated food and include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, headaches or fever.  Do yourself, your family and friends a favor by taking these simple steps to keep gastrointestinal upset from ruining a good time. 

• Cook all meats fully! Beef should be cooked to 160 degrees or until the center is no longer pink. Poultry should be cooked to 165-180 degrees. Use a meat thermometer to take the guesswork out of cooking times.

• Wash hands, dishes, cooking utensils and meat thermometers thoroughly.

• Refrigerate leftovers promptly, especially those that contain egg or dairy products.

• Wash vegetables and fruits, even if they are organic and even if the fruit has thick skin or a rind. Organic produce can become contaminated during handling between farm and store, and a knife can carry bacteria from the skin or rind through the fruit’s flesh.

“Most food borne illnesses will resolve themselves within 48 – 72 hours,” says Dr. Jani. “But, if your symptoms are severe or do not improve after 72 hours, then it’s time to contact your physician.”

To find a doctor at GBMC, visit

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