Food Poisoning Can Ruin Your Holiday


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food poisoning ruins your holiday

Food poisoning comes in many cases.  There are different bacteria and different causes of food contamination that result in food-borne illnesses.

It is possible to get food poisoning from a restaurant, food from someone’s home or by ingesting a product consumed directly by a manufacturer.  If you have ever had food poisoning, then you would most likely agree that even one case is too many. So how do you avoid these kitchen dangers? learn how to identify and prevent three types of foodborne bacteria. Read on to learn more:


  1. Norovirus

What it is: Norovirus is what we are usually talking about when we discuss food poisoning. Almost one-half of all reported cases of food poisoning are related to this virus. Infection causes inflammation of the stomach and large intestine lining (gastroenteritis). Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

How do you catch it: Noroviruses are hardy and contagious. They can survive in water, as well as in extreme environments. Once someone catches it, norovirus passes easily from person to person through shared food or utensils, or through simple physical contact, like a hug from Cousin Joe, or a handshake from your boss. As with most viruses, norovirus takes advantage of those with weaker immune systems, including the elderly or very young. Proper washing will help reduce some risk, but the CDC admits there are few things consumers can really do to protect themselves from noroviruses.


The likelihood of catching norovirus from the veggie tray at your company’s Christmas party? Very real. Raw or undercooked oysters and raw fruits and vegetables are the usual culprits when it comes to this virus.


  1. Listeria

What it is: Listeria is a bacteria found in soil and water and carried by some animals, including poultry and cattle. Raw milk and food processing facilities are typically affected. Symptoms may include fever, stiff neck, confusion, weakness, vomiting, and in the earliest stages, diarrhea.

How do you catch it: Eating contaminated foods is the primary way to catch Listeria. Listeria can grow even in cold temperatures. The only way to kill the bacteria is through cooking and pasteurization. Those with compromised immune systems should avoid raw dairy, as well as lunch meat and certain cheeses.


The likelihood of catching it from Grandma’s homemade pate? It’s possible. Ready-to-eat deli meats, meat or fish spreads (like pate), and soft cheeses are common sources of this virus.

  1. Coli

What it is: Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria live in the intestines of normal, healthy people and animals. Most E. Coli are an important part of the body, while other types of E. Coli cause illness. The most common symptom of an E. Coli illness is diarrhea; if the intestines are very irritated, the stool may be bloody. Some strains of E. coli bacteria may also cause severe anemia or kidney failure, which can lead to death. Still others cause urinary tract infections.


How do you catch it: Illness-causing E. Coli is hard to prevent and easily transmitted. Typical sources include contaminated water or food, or contact with animals or persons. Not washing hands, surfaces, or utensils, cross contamination of food, and other careless food safety practices are common culprits.


The likelihood of catching it from Mom’s holiday meatloaf? It could happen. Raw, unpasteurized milk and juices, as well as ground beef, are often carriers of the E. Coli bacteria.


  1. Salmonella Poisoning

Salmonellosis is the illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella. It is one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis (an inflammation of the lining of the intestines caused by a virus or bacteria) with more than 2,300 cases occurring in Georgia each year. The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta estimates that Salmonella causes approximately 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths every year in the United States.  Additionally, people infected with Salmonella often develop significant symptoms of the illness within 12 to 72 hours after coming into contact with the bacteria. Symptoms often include fever, diarrhea, and stomach / abdominal cramps.


Salmonellosis / Salmonella Poisoning typically remains with a patient for four to seven days. An article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), also citing the CDC, indicates most people do not require hospitalization. They add that “most people don’t need treatment other than drinking lots of fluids.” Some cases are more serious. Dehydrated patients often require hospitalization. Additionally, doctors often prescribe medications to combat food poisoning.

As noted earlier, Salmonella is only one type of food poisoning and other food-borne illnesses are just as dangerous and deadly. The foregoing information and tips on preventing Georgia food poisoning cases applies to our general theme of encouraging food safety.  Since Thanksgiving has come and gone, and Christmas and New Year are days away, there could not be a better time to remind people about the importance of food safety. This week many people will cook for themselves and their families and we want them to be safe! Food safety should be considered during all times of food preparation and especially during the holidays!

Preventing food Poisoning can be done in several ways. The following information comes directly from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website.  This site is a good resource for various topics connected to nutrition and food as it relates to your health.


  1. Wash your hands with soap and water

Wet hands with clean running water and add soap. Warm water is best. Rub your hands together to create lather and scrub and wash all the parts of your hands for 20 seconds. Rinse your hands thoroughly using a clean paper towel to dry your hands. Do not contaminate your hands by touching the faucet.  Use a paper towel to touch and turn off the faucet.


  1. Sanitize surfaces

Surfaces (countertops, cutting boards, etc.) should be cleaned and washed with soapy hot water. Mix 1 tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of water as a cleaner. Some of the bleach and water mix can be poured in a spray bottle that can be used to sanitize surfaces.


  1. Empty the refrigerator of old or bad foods once a week

Once a week or more, throw out all refrigerated foods that should no longer be eaten or consumed. Don’t keep cooked leftovers in the fridge for more than 4 days. Discard raw poultry and ground meats after 1 to 2 days.


  1. Detail your appliances, making sure that every part is sanitized and free of germs and debris

Clean the inside and the outside of all your appliances. This includes buttons and handles where cross-contamination to hands can occur.


  1. Rinse the produce

All fresh vegetables and fruits should be under running water just before preparing or consuming. Rinse them prior to cutting or peeling to prevent microbes from transferring from the outside to the inside of the produce.


  1. Separate foods when shopping

During check out, keep the raw meats separated in different bags from other groceries. Never store them above the ready-to-eat foods in the fridge because that creates a significant contamination risk.


  1. Cook food to safe internal temperatures

One effective way to prevent illness is to check the internal temperature of seafood, meat, poultry, and egg dishes. Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a safe minimum internal temperature of 145 °F. For safety and quality, allow the meat to rest for at least 3 minutes before carving or eating. Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F. Cook all poultry, including ground turkey and chicken, to an internal temperature of 165 °F. Hold cold foods at 40 °F or below. Keep hot foods at 140 °F or above. Foods are no longer safe to eat when they have been in the danger zone between 40-140 °F for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature was above 90 °F).

Follow these simple steps, and you can keep food poisoning from ruining your holiday barbecue or picnic. Do your part for safety, then relax and enjoy!