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Food Borne Illness

Timeless Nutrition Tips...

Eye on Home Food Safety

There’s no better way to waste food than to let it spoil. But some foods are tricky when it comes to determining their state of “freshness”. Consider the following primer practices on keeping your shelves filled with foods that haven’t gone bad.

Food Borne Illness

Home food safety should become a habit.

Clean out. Remove everything from your pantry and cupboard shelves. Toss any cans showing signs of leaking or bulging (sign of botulism). Toss any packages you’ve opened but haven’t used in the last six months.

Check Dates. Most packaged goods display expiration dates. But it’s important to know just what these dates mean. Sell by date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. Be sure the date on the foods you buy allow enough time to eat before then. “Best if used by” or “use by” date tells you when you should eat (or freeze) the product for best quality.

Note that neither of these dates have anything to do with home food safety. As long as the product hasn’t been opened or mishandled it’s most likely safe to eat. Usually it’s the quality of the food that suffers once the date has passed (less than perfect texture; separation of ingredients).

As soon as a package is opened, all bets are off. Expiration dates no longer apply. Once open, bacteria can enter and spoil food in a matter of days. Typically, you should eat a refrigerated food within 3 to 7 days of opening it. Foods like hard cheeses and condiments last a lot longer.

Rotate Your Stock. Remember FIFO: “First in, First out”. This practice ensures nothing languishes in the back of your cupboards. Organize the foods you have on hand with the oldest in front. Then, when you buy new foods, place them behind the one’s you already have.

Watch Spices. Keep spices away from heat, light and moisture. That means don’t store them near the stove.

Dry Goods. Store dry goods in containers with tight lids to keep out insects. Whole grains and whole-grain flours last longer in sealed plastic bags in the refrigerator or freezer. They’ll go rancid at room temperature.

Olive Oil and Nuts. Keep olive oil and nuts away from light and heat to preserve freshness and quality. Oils can be stored in the refrigerator, but they will thicken and get cloudy. Note: Popular garlic-in-oil combos must be refrigerated to prevent botulism.

Home Food Safety Refrigerator and Freezer Re-Do

Haven’t gone through your fridge or freezer lately? Maybe it’s time for a re-do! The freezer is an equal part of practicing home food safety so let’s get to it.

Toss out months old frozen foods, especially anything that’s freezer-burned, unlabeled or been in the freezer for more than a year.

Test temperatures. Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator. Use it to check the freezer temperature. The refrigerator should be kept at 40 degrees or below, the freezer 0 degrees or below.

Avoid over crowding. Circulating air keeps your fridge and freezer cooler, which means foods stay fresher longer. You don’t want to keep a freezer too empty, either though. Then it has to work harder to chill the empty spaces, upping your energy bill. If not full, put anything – even unopened paper towels – in there to take up space.

Don’t use the fridge door for perishables like milk or eggs. The temperature fluctuates too much. Store eggs in their carton on a shelf.

Read labels and date your food. Always check the fine print on food labels for storage suggestions. Refrigeration is often necessary once a food has been opened. This is a basic home food safety practice. With an indelible marker, jot the date right on the lid or front label when you open items. Later you won’t have to guess how long they’ve been hanging around. Dating leftovers is essential, whether or refrigerated or frozen.

Home Food Safety – Tea and Food Poisoning

The epigallo catechins in tea are considered effective in preventing food poisoning because of their antibacterial and antioxidant capabilities.

The theaflavins in black tea have an antibacterial and antitoxin effect equal to the catechins in green tea. It has been proved that theaflavins are also effective against vibrio cholera.

Theaflavins ensure the freshness of food. If fish is dipped in cold tea before it is cooked, or if tea is sprinkled over the cooked fish, the theaflavins will be effective in halting an increase in bacteria. This prevents food poisoning.

Simple Steps to Avoid Food Borne Illness

Food Cooler

Keep cold foods cold and hot food hot. Not complying with this simple rule is the leading cause of all food-borne illnesses. Cold food should be kept at 40-degrees or cooler. All perishable foods should be chilled until serving time. Hot foods should be kept at 140-degrees. Pack an instant-read thermometer for outdoor eating and/or picnics to monitor food temperatures.

Pack one cooler for frequently used foods and drinks and another for perishable foods like meats. The constant opening of a cooler prevents foods from staying chilled.

Always double-wrap raw poultry, fish or meats to make sure juices do not leak and contaminate other foods. If you have to travel a distance with your food, freeze these items and place them in a cooler, frozen. This will slow the thaw considerably.

Marinate meats safely and cook meat, fish and poultry thoroughly. Always thaw and marinate meats, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator, not at room temperature. Dry rubs for meat, fish or poultry are preferable to wet marinades to minimize chance of contamination. Do not partially cook food to finish grilling later. Bacteria grow faster in partially cooked foods.

Bacteria grow rapidly at warm temperatures so toss any leftover perishables such as potato salad and lunch meat. Do not try to serve them a second time.

Food Borne Illness in Seniors

Some people are more likely to get sick from harmful bacteria that can be found in food. And once they are sick, they face the risk of more serious health problems, even death.

Susceptible Seniors

Seniors are more susceptible to food borne illness because the immune system weakens as we age. In addition, stomach acid also decreases as we get older -- and stomach acid plays an important role in reducing the number of bacteria in our intestinal tracts -- and the risk of illness. Plus underlying illnesses such as diabetes, some cancer treatments and kidney disease may increase a person's risk of food borne illness.

It can be difficult to recognize when harmful bacteria in food have made them sick. For instance, it is difficult to tell if food is unsafe, because you cannot see, smell or taste the bacteria it may contain.

Different Types of Bacteria

Oftentimes people think their food borne illness was caused by their last meal. In fact, there is a wide range of time between eating food with harmful bacteria and the onset of illness. Usually food borne bacteria take one to three days to cause illness. But you could become sick anytime from 20 minutes to six weeks after eating some foods with dangerous bacteria. It depends on a variety of factors, including the type of bacteria in the food.

If you get food borne illness, you might be sick to your stomach, vomit, or have diarrhea. Or, symptoms could be flu-like with a fever and headache and body aches. The best thing to do is check with your doctor. And if you become ill after eating out, also call your local health department so they can investigate.

Food borne illness can be dangerous, but is often easy to prevent. By following four basic rules of food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill, you can help prevent food borne illness for yourself and others.

Food Seniors are Advised Not to Eat

Plate of food

One of the most commonly asked questions for food safety is in regards to frozen foods. Frozen foods are often a handy way for senior citizen's to keep healthy, easy and quick to prepare foods on hand. Rest assured, if food was good when you or your loved one placed it in the freezer, it will be good when it is taken out to be consumed.

Food stored constantly at 0 degrees (or lower) will always be safe. Only the quality suffers with lengthy freezer storage. Freezing keeps food safe by slowing the movement of molecules, causing microbes to enter a dormant stage. Freezing preserves food for extended periods because it prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness.

Freezing inactivates any bacteria, yeasts and molds present in food. Once thawed, however, these microbes can again become active, multiplying under the right conditions to levels that can lead to foodborne illness. Since they will then grow at about the same rate as microorganisms on fresh food, you must handle thawed items as you would any perishable food. This is why it is important food is frozen fresh and free of microbes. Cooking, however, will destroy all parasites.

Reducing Risk of Illness

To reduce risks of illness from bacteria in food, seniors (and others who face special risks of illness) are advised not to eat:

  • Raw fin fish and shellfish, including oysters, clams, mussels and scallops.
  • Raw or unpasteurized milk or cheese.
  • Soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, and Mexican-style cheese. Hard cheeses, processed cheeses, cream cheese, cottage cheese or yogurt need not be avoided.

Feta Cheese     Brie Cheese     Camembert Cheese

  • Raw or lightly cooked egg or egg products including salad dressings, cookie or cake batter, sauces and beverages such as egg nog. Foods made from commercially pasteurized eggs are safe to eat.
  • Raw meat or poultry.
  • Raw sprouts (alfalfa, clover and radish).
  • Unpasteurized or untreated fruit or vegetable juice. (These juices will carry a warning label).
  • New information on food safety is constantly emerging. Recommendations and precautions are updated as scientists learn more about preventing food borne illness. You need to be aware of and follow the most current information on food safety.