Food Poisoning Symptoms More Common

July 31, 2012

Despite efforts to reduce and eliminate bacteria that cause food poisoning symptoms, some of them have actually become more common in the last year. A CDC study tracking bacteria that commonly cause stomach flu has found that the presence of stomach pain culprits like Listeria and Salmonella have either gone up or remained steady over the past few years.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s paid any attention to food recalls this summer and last. Another Cantaloupe outbreak in the Northeast (not as big as last year’s), bagged salad recalls, Trader Joe’s recalls of several products, and frozen dinner recalls are examples all from this year.

Many recalls aren’t made until most of the food has been eaten or distributed—so many food poisoning symptoms aren’t being tied to a specific food item, even though there’s been several likely culprits besides Grandma’s mayonnaise-based picnic salad.

Since you can’t always know when something’s going to have been contaminated before you eat it, follow these basic tips:

Pre-Made Food

Pre-made food seems to be the biggest source of Listeria as well as other bacteria responsible for recalls. If you have the time, prepare food yourself as much as possible. You’ll save money, increase nutrition, and avoid food poisoning symptoms!

-Wash bagged lettuce, even if it’s prewashed!
-Check expiration dates—if it’s been contaminated, past-due food means there’s been plenty of time for growth.
-Smell, toss generously. Especially when it comes to lunch meat—-but smell isn’t a guarantee.
-Clean your fridge regularly—Listeria thrives at fridge temps.

Homemade Food And Fruits

You are far less likely to get stomach pain from food you make yourself! Just follow these tips:

-Wash fruit before you eat OR cut it. The knife will drag outer bacteria from the skin through the fruit’s meat, so a scrub and rinse can only help. (i.e., Watermelon, Avocados…)
-Follow food safety by cooking meat to recommended temperatures, cleaning surfaces and utensils touched by raw meat, and washing your hands frequently (Before starting, after touching raw meat or eggs).
-Don’t let food sit in the sun/out for hours—keep it chilled or heated, as appropriate.
-Use a clean spoon to taste-test. Your own germs may not make you sick, but anyone not sharing an intimate germ-load with you is going to leave your home with stomach pain! (Trust me on this one).
-Consider wine with the meal (or a cocktail before, or night cap after); alcohol does kill germs, so if you drink, dinner’s a good time to do it!
-Not a drinker? Strengthen your stomach flora with probiotics!

Have you been following food recalls? Has it changed your shopping behavior?

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