Winter Food Poisoning Season

November 28, 2014

SproutsDuring summer, warm weather encourages the growth of several food poisoning pathogens that can creep into picnics, barbecues, and pre-made food.

During winter, Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis, or stomach flu.

What Winter Foods Cause Stomach Flu?

The big one to watch out for is sprouts. Sprouts commonly come contaminated with salmonella, listeria, and other food poisoning pathogens. Why? Sprouts are grown in warm, moist conditions, which are the perfect breeding ground for germs. Germs that can neither be washed, nor lightly cooked off.

It’s recommended to either cook sprouts, or avoid them altogether (not even allowing them on your plate).

Personally, I like sprouts. As long as I feel like my immune system is up to it, I take the risk. People with weakened immune systems should always come down on the side of avoiding sprouts.

The other big winter risk is the holiday dip.

Dips aren’t inherently germy, but the flu carrying, hand instead of elbow sneezing, runny nose having guest who partake sure are!

You can’t force people not to double dip, or hover over communal dishes while they take their bite, but you can minimize the risk of spreading infection.

Put out small bowls of dip, and replace them entirely with new bowls from the fridge when they’re empty. Try a heated/baked dip or fondue to reduce germs (but it won’t eliminate them entirely unless it’s very hot). Or put out small bowls and a serving spoon and encourage guests to have personal dip bowls.

Strengthen Your Digestive Tract Against Food Poisoning

If you’re already sick, you’re at a bigger risk for food poisoning (not to mention transferring your germs to everyone else). That’s the time to avoid high-risk foods as much as possible.

Otherwise, you can support your digestive immune system with probiotic rich foods. Probiotics are good bacteria that can help fight off or crowd out invading bacteria.

And keep surfaces around you extra clean. Norovirus can spread farther than you would intuitively assume, and will survive on surfaces for days. Unfortunately you have to use super strong chemicals, like bleach, to kill norovirus.

What are your go-to holiday foods and how do you keep them safe?

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