Is Your Dinner Making You Sick?
By Sara Butler
Foodborne illness is a big problem in this country -- and if it's ever impacted your life, you know how important it is to avoid because it's miserable! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 48 million Americans get sick from the food they eat each year. Even food that looks, tastes, and smells fine can have enough bacteria in it to take you down and leave you wishing for the sweet release of death. OK, maybe not death, but it'll make you feel bad enough to turn you off of a particular food forever. You can avoid these culinary calamities by understanding a little bit more about foodborne illness and which foods are the biggest offenders.
What is Foodborne Illness
In case you've been lucky enough to avoid it or you've blocked it from your memory, here's a little about the basics of food poisoning. When someone eats a contaminated food or food that's been stored or prepared in a way that allowed dangerous pathogens such as parasites, bacteria, molds, and viruses to thrive, it can make them sick. Symptoms of foodborne illness include:
- Stomach upset
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal cramps
These symptoms can last for a few hours or a few days. But if you have a temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, you should seek medical attention.
The Worst Offenders
When you're eating out at a restaurant, make sure you pay special attention to how these foods are prepared:
- Poultry - Raw poultry can get contaminated with salmonella, which can make you sick if it's not cooked properly or is cooked but stored on the same surfaces as raw meat
- Eggs - No one really knows what came first, the salmonella or the egg, but eggs can make you very sick if not cooked correctly
- Cheese - Enjoying certain cheeses such as ricotta, Camembert, feta, and brie put you at high risk for listeria poisoning
- Berries - Berries are good for you but the cyclospora that can contaminate them sure isn't, so wash your fruit
- Raw seafood - Sushi lovers beware because your favorite piece of raw fish can carry liver flukes and parasites
- Melons - Wash melons before you slice to avoid salmonella poisoning
- Romaine lettuce - Recent infections caused by E. coli should make you wary of this leafy green
- Deli meat - Staphylococcus aureus and listeria can contaminate deli meat in the factory or at the deli counter, so beware
Make sure to take care when preparing your meals and to check that the food you eat at restaurants is cooked the right way!
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