Humans love food! We love the different tastes, spices, and textures that food can offer our palates. Unfortunately, with a love for food comes the possibility of experiencing a foodborne illness. In fact, most of us have had a foodborne illness at some point in our lives. The government predicts that 48 million cases of food poisoning happen annually in the United States! That means approximately 1 in 6 Americans get sick each year! These sicknesses result in about 130,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths a year. Following the right precautions may help lower the risk of getting sick, and if you have ever had food poisoning, you know it’s not fun.

What is a foodborne illness?

A foodborne illness (also called a foodborne disease or food poisoning) is an infection that happens from eating something that has been contaminated with disease-causing germs. There have been over 250 diseases identified and most of them are caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites, but harmful toxins and chemicals can also contaminate foods and cause sickness. Below are the most common foodborne germs that cause sickness:

  • norovirus
  • salmonella
  • clostridium perfringens
  • campylobacter
  • staphylococcus aureus
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli) – most likely to lead to hospitalization

Who is at risk for foodborne illnesses?

Everyone is at risk, but the people below are more likely to become sick or fall into life-threatening conditions when sick:

  • pregnant women and unborn children
  • children
  • older adults
  • people with cancer, diabetes, HIV/ADS, organ transplants, and autoimmune diseases

What are precautions I can take to avoid getting sick?

The CDC recommends practicing these four simple steps below:

  • Clean – wash your hands and surfaces often
  • Separate – separate raw meats from other foods
  • Cook – make sure food is cooked to the correct temperature
  • Chill – refrigerate foods promptly before bacteria forms

What are foods I can avoid to reduce my chances of getting sick?

  • raw/undercooked meat and poultry
  • raw or partially cooked seafood and refrigerated smoked seafood
  • raw shellfish
  • raw or undercooked eggs
  • products made with raw milk, cheese, or yogurt
  • raw cookie dough and cake batter
  • unwashed vegetables and fruits

What are the symptoms of having food poisoning?

Symptoms usually appear 12 hours to 72 hours after eating contaminated foods but may show up as soon as 30 minutes after exposure and last 4 weeks. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. A fever, headache, and body ache may appear as well.

If you would like to read more about Food Safety, click HERE for CDC’s page with more information.

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