Food-borne Germs Rise

The season for backyard barbecues and family gatherings is a most welcomed opportunity to enjoy good food, outdoor games, and the company of loved ones.  The warm weather also means that food can spoil more quickly, and greater care must be taken to keep food safe for consumption and close attention paid to cross-contamination in the kitchen.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of becoming ill from food-borne germs has recently increased to pre-pandemic levels. 

As reported by CNN Health, the risk of getting sick from E-coli, salmonella, listeria and other germs has recently risen as people return to restaurant dining, travel more, and public health interventions ease.  Each year roughly 9 million Americans become ill from pathogens in food, about 56,000 people are admitted to hospital and 1,350 die from food-borne diseases.

Washing and drying hands thoroughly is a key factor in preventing the spread of gastrointestinal infections. Food should not be left out at room temperature for long periods.  Special care must be used when handling raw meat to avoid cross-contamination.  Washing fruits, vegetables and leafy greens, which are a common source of germs, under running water can help prevent surface bacteria from contaminating food. 

Cooking meats, especially pork, poultry, and seafood, thoroughly is also essential to prevent the spread of bacteria.  Countertops, cutting board and all utensils should be cleaned after each use with hot, soapy water.   Because bacteria like listeria can grow even in cool temperatures, the fridge should be set at 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) or lower, and the freezer at zero Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius) or lower.  

Deli meat and hot dogs should be discarded after two weeks, even if unopened and stored in the fridge.  Eating foods made with raw milk puts people, especially those who are vulnerable, at risk for infection with a food-borne illness. Pregnant and high-risk people should avoid eating soft cheeses and deli meats. 

Learn more about handling food safely while eating outdoors by following this link to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.