Keep food poisoning at bay this holiday season

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By Cara Murez

Health Day Reporter

TUESDAY, November 22, 2022 (HealthDay News) — A happy holiday can quickly turn sour when food poisoning joins the party.

Experts from the Rutgers New Jersey Poison Control Center share some tips for safely defrosting, preparing and storing food, and avoiding alcohol and drug problems.

“Forgetting about food safety is a recipe for disaster,” said Diane Calello, executive director and medical director of the Poison Control Center in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

“Do not prepare food if you have a respiratory condition or infection as this puts your guests at risk of illness. No matter how busy your kitchen gets during the holidays, always keep in mind the risks of improper food handling,” she said in a Rutgers press release.

Food poisoning is no small problem. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 48 million Americans contract it each year, hospitalizing 128,000 and dying 3,000. But here’s some advice from the Poison Center on how to avoid it:

  • To start, remember to clean, separate, boil and refrigerate.
  • Wash your hands and surfaces frequently with warm water and soap while preparing food.
  • Use only water, not soap, to clean fruit and vegetables.
  • Don’t let foods that are served raw come into contact with raw poultry, meat, or seafood when grocery shopping or in the refrigerator. Use one cutting board for produce and bread, and a separate one for raw meat or seafood.
  • While your fridge should be set below 40° Fahrenheit, a food thermometer can help you ensure cooked food is reaching a safe internal temperature.
  • Frozen foods should never be thawed on the counter, but should be thawed in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave, as bacteria, parasites, and viruses can multiply rapidly at room temperature.
  • Perishable foods should be refrigerated within two hours.

The effects of food poisoning are felt within hours and can include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and fever. It’s especially risky for young children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems.

It’s also important to understand how to drink safely and recognize alcohol poisoning, advises the Poisons Center. Be aware of how much alcohol you actually consume, not just the number of drinks, to avoid drinking more than is safe.

Certain holiday foods may also be unsafe for pets. These include chocolate, candy, bread and dough, fatty meat trimmings, grapes, raisins and currants, sugar-free products and cocoa. Artificial sweeteners like xylitol can cause serious illness, as can items that appear like food like button batteries, small magnets, e-cigarettes and nicotine products, medications, and recreational and prescription drugs.

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on foodborne illness.

SOURCE: Rutgers, press release, November 17, 2022


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Keep food poisoning at bay this holiday season
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