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Safe Food Handling

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most foodborne illness is preventable with good food handling practices, including proper cooking, storage of food and appropriate personal hygiene practices of food handlers. A little bit of prevention will go a long way. Don't forget to use clean dish towels, antibacterial soaps and keep counter tops clean.

Bacteria Sources Symptoms Prevention
Salmonella Found in raw or undercooked foods such as poultry, eggs, unpasteurized milk or other dairy products and meats. Headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever and nausea, which generally begin 8 to 48 hours after eating contaminated food. The symptoms can last anywhere from 1 to 8 days. Cooking destroys Salmonella. Thoroughly cook meats, poultry, fish and eggs. Use separate cutting surfaces and knives to prepare raw and cooked foods. Never consume unpasteurized, raw or undercooked foods of animal origin. Wash hands and utensils before preparing food.
Staphylococcus aureus Grows on protein-rich foods such as meats, poultry, fish, milk products, milk-based sauces, puddings and custards. Hand-contact, coughing or sneezing spreads bacteria. Nausea, vomiting, chills, and shallow breathing may begin 2 to 4 hours after eating contaminated food. The symptoms can last anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. Proper storage of foods to prevent bacterial growth (place meat, fish and poultry in the coldest part of the refrigerator - on a low shelf at the back). Don't leave high-risk foods at room temperature for more than 1-2 hours. Wash hands and utensils before preparing food
Clostridium perfringens Frequently occur when large quantities of food are served at room temperature or from a steam table. Meat, poultry, cooked dried beans ("refried" beans) and gravies are the most common carriers. The organism lives in soil, so contamination from unwashed vegetables also is possible Symptoms are relatively mild and include diarrhea and gas pains which begin between 6 and 24 hours after ingestion and last approximately 24 hours. The illness is most serious for the sick and elderly. Keep hot foods hot (at or above 140 F or 60 C) and cold foods cold (at or below 40 F or 4 C). Use shallow storage pans; food should be no more than 2 inches deep. Reheat leftovers to at least 160 F or 71 C before serving. Wash away all soil from vegetables using clean drinkable water. Wash hands and utensils before preparing food.
Campylobacter jejuni Poultry, shellfish and livestock carry this organism. C. jejuni have been attributed to undercooked poultry and meats, raw (unpasteurized) milk and untreated water. Muscle pain, headache and fever followed by diarrhea, abdominal pain and nausea. Symptoms begin 1 to 10 days following ingestion. Cook ground meats to a uniform internal temperature of at least 160 F or 71 C, ground poultry to 165 F or 74 C. Non-ground poultry to 170 F or 77 C. Once cooked, keep hot foods above 140 F or 60 C. Keep cold foods below 40 F or 4 C. Wash hands and utensils before preparing food.
Escherichia coli Found in ground beef products, unpasteurized milk and plant foods. Can be transmitted through inadvertent contact with fecal matter during processing of animal foods or because of improper food handling. Symptoms include abdominal cramps and watery diarrhea. Severe cases may include bloody diarrhea, vomiting and nausea and a low-grade fever. Symptoms generally begin 3 to 9 days following infection and may last 2 to 9 days. Can be effectively controlled by thorough cooking (see cooking temperatures above). Reheat foods to 160 F or 71 C. Keep hot foods at or above 140 F or 60 C. Keep cold foods at or below 40 F or 4 C. Avoid unprocessed fruit and vegetable juices and unpasteurized milk and milk products.
Clostridium botulinum Widely distributed in soil. Low-acid fruits and vegetables that pick up botulinum spores from soil promote growth if improperly canned. The toxin attacks your nervous system causing nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headache, constipation, paralysis, difficult breathing. Symptoms generally begin 12 to 36 hours following infection. Do not use foods in cracked jars or swollen or damaged cans. Don't eat canned fruits or vegetables that have a milky, instead of clear, liquid surrounding them. Follow home-canning procedures very carefully. When in doubt, toss it out!!

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