By Kara Morris
TUESDAY, Nov. 22, 2022 (HealthDay News) — A happy holiday can quickly be ruined when food poisoning joins the party.
Experts from the Rutgers NJ Poison Control Center offer some tips on safely thawing food, preparing and storing food, as well as avoiding alcohol and drug problems.
“Forgetting food safety is a recipe for disaster,” said Diane Calillo, MD, executive director and medical director of the Poison Control Center in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey School of Medicine.
Do not prepare food if you have any kind of respiratory illness or infection, as this puts your guests at risk of getting sick. No matter how busy your kitchen gets during the holidays, she said in a Rutgers press release, always remember the risks of improper food handling.
Food poisoning is no small problem. It affects about 48 million Americans each year, causing 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But here are some tips from the Poison Center on how to avoid them:
- To get started, remember to clean, separate, cook and cool.
- Wash your hands and surfaces often with warm, soapy water while preparing food.
- Use only water to clean fruits and vegetables, not soap.
- Don’t let food that will be served raw come into contact with uncooked poultry, meat, or seafood while 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 refrigerator should be set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, a food thermometer can help you ensure cooked foods reach a safe internal temperature.
- Frozen foods should never be thawed on the counter, but rather in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave because bacteria, parasites, and viruses can grow rapidly at room temperature.
- Perishable foods should be refrigerated within two hours.
The effects of food poisoning can be felt within a few hours, and may include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and fever. It is especially risky for young children, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems.
The Poison Center advises that it is also important to understand how to drink safely and learn about alcohol poisoning. Be aware of the amount of alcohol you already consume, not just the number of drinks, to avoid consuming more than what is safe.
Some holiday foods can also be unsafe for pets. These include chocolate, candy, bread, dough, fatty meat leftovers, grapes, raisins, currants, sugar-free products and cocoa. Artificial sweeteners like xylitol can cause severe illness, as can food-like items like button batteries, mini magnets, nicotine products, and recreational and prescription medications.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on food poisoning.
Source: Rutgers, press release, November 17, 2022