Lessen Your Risk of Food Poisoning

This year I went through the worst bout of food poisoning I have ever experienced. In fact, after going through that, I realize now I had never actually had food poisoning before. It’s difficult to really put it in words how terrible the ordeal was, but I can safely say it was the most sick I have ever felt in my life. I think I vomited for about 6 hours straight, to the point where I was so weak I could barely talk, let alone move.

It took a few days to feel like my old self again, and to this day I refuse to eat BBQ chicken (I am pretty sure that is what did it). It took me a while to feel comfortable eating out at a restaurant. I began realizing how little control we have over what goes into our food, and we definitely don’t know what is happening to the ingredients within transit. Food borne illnesses are a scary thing, but being educated about the bacteria that causes most food poisoning can be the first step to avoiding contamination. 

Salmonella is the biggie. It causes the most poisonings each year, with about 40,000 people being infected annually. It’s symptoms include watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever and vomiting. Although salmonella related food poisonings aren’t usually fatal, they can be if it gets into the blood steam. 

C. jejuni is the second most spread food-related bacteria. If you come into contact with this type of bacteria, it may cause diarrhea, stomach pain and fever. This takes longer to show up, taking about 2-5 days after consuming, as opposed to salmonella that begins causing symptoms between 6 and 48 hours. This type of food poisoning is quite severe, with the food poisoning lasting about 10 days. It can even cause an autoimmune disease in some instances. 

E. coli is the bacteria that we seem to hear most about on the news. It is the cause of the majority of food recalls, however only about 1 out of every 100,000 people end up being infected by it. It’s symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting. If E. coli gets into the bloodstream it can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, a disease where the bacteria attacks and destroys red blood cells, eventually causing kidney failure. 

In order to protect yourself from these strains of bacteria make sure you cook all your food to its proper temperature, with poultry reaching 180 degrees and fish reaching between 125 and 140 degrees, depending on the type. Also take care to store your foods in a refrigerator that is at 41 degrees or below. In addition to these steps, keeping a disinfected food prep area and keeping your hands thoroughly clean will help guard against cross-contamination.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Allagash Brewing